Making a final wish comes true: Hospice expanding virtual reality therapy


ASHLAND — Hospice of North Central Ohio is extending its virtual reality therapy (VRT) in an effort to help Richland County hospice and palliative patients fulfill their last wishes, thanks to a $7,000 grant from the Robert and Esther Black Family Foundation Fund of The Richland County Foundation.

VRT uses video technology to generate realistic 360-degree, photographic or animated three-dimensional images, accompanied by sounds from the actual environment. When donning the headset and headphones, viewers are surrounded by visuals and sounds that give the impression of being physically present in the environment. Virtual reality therapy treatment allows patients to relive memories, return to places of emotional significance, or experience something or somewhere that they desire.

“It’s a virtual bucket list,” explains Ben Roby, HNCO chaplain and point person for the program. “There is limited data about the efficacy of virtual reality as therapy, so when Chief Development Officer Ralph Tomassi shared the vision after reading about its use in the UK, our staff fully embraced the idea.”

“In my research, I have found that most hospices currently implementing this therapy in the U.S. are providing a rudimentary experience. With this equipment, our patients enjoy a more realistic adventure.” he said. “Because we deliver care at home and in nursing facilities, the portability of these virtual reality goggles is perfect to give each patient the opportunity to enjoy a special activity or place.”

Richland CountyFoundation president Brady Groves stated: “Funding for VRT is one example of how we keep our donors aware of innovative and charitable opportunities.”

“We are indeed grateful to the advisors of The Robert and Esther Black Family Foundation Fund and the Richland County Foundation for providing this grant allowing HNCO to extend this highly successful therapy program to our patients in Richland County,” added Bill Kahl, executive director of HNCO.

Hospice of North Central Ohio’s staff and volunteers are excited that the will be able to help their Richland County patients get to the beach, mountains, their childhood home, or travel to the other side of the globe through this innovative therapy.

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Headquartered at 1050 Dauch Drive in Ashland, Hospice of North Central Ohio serves more than 200 patients daily in Ashland, Crawford, Huron, Knox, Morrow, and Richland counties with palliative and hospice services. Additionally, free bereavement services are provided for hundreds of families of hospice patients and anyone in the community experiencing grief. Call 800-952-2207 for more information. HNCO is a community partner of United Way.