CODY —Imagine putting on a pair of goggles that could transport you to Paris, that could take you to the zoo, that could let you watch a play or catch butterflies in an open field or even play with dogs.
Cody Regional Health is making that a reality for their patients and residents through a partnership with MyndVR, a provider of virtual reality solutions for senior citizens.
The program has helped patients, especially those in long term care, combat isolation and undergo various forms of therapy.
“It allows them to connect with the outside world,” said Annalea Avery, CRH Foundation and Patient Experience director. “It’s especially geared for long term residents [because] they’re not always able to leave or don’t have family close by.”
“And it’s especially important for people with terminal illnesses [because] they cannot leave, and they can’t travel,” Avery added.
The idea to acquire virtual reality goggles began with Avery, who has a passion for the senior citizen community.
She witnessed the isolation that many long term care patients experienced during Covid, but she wanted to find a way to combat that isolation even after Covid lessened.
“Last year, we put up a hugging booth during the height of Covid, but then the hugging booth came down, and we still had some residents that would have to go into isolation,” Avery said. “I saw this [the goggles], and we thought it was such a neat experience to offer.”
At the beginning of August, CRH purchased a two-year subscription for two sets of MyndVR virtual reality goggles, with a $5,000 grant the hospital received from the Cody Regional Health Foundation. CRH doesn’t own the goggles, but MyndVR will replace them if they get broken or ruined.
“It’s great to make therapy and rehabilitation fun and motivating and engaging,” Avery said. “And, as technology changes, then our health care kind of changes with it.”
The program offers mindfulness exercises, including meditation, breathing exercises and relaxation activities, providing patients with recreation engagement, cognitive therapy and physical therapy, Avery explained.
Through MyndVR, patients get access to a library of virtual reality content, spanning well over 350 videos and activities. The content ranges from music to art to nature-immersion to meditation and cognitive programs.
Avery said that with the goggles, patients can sit on a beach and do a breathing or meditation exercise. Veterans can visit the memorials that were built to honor their service. Patients can go on guided tours of Yellowstone National Park or even sit in the jungle and watch gorillas.
The options are almost endless because, as Avery explained, MyndVR puts out new videos every month, providing patients with new content on a regular basis.
MyndVR even provides guidance on how to use the content most effectively.
“They give us a breakdown of what activities would be most helpful for seniors that might be struggling with something like ‘sundowners [syndrome],’” Avery said. “Or if you have somebody struggling with anxiety, they say these videos might be good for them.”
Sundowning is a state of confusion that can occur in Alzheimer patients in the late afternoon.
An added benefit of the goggles is they’re easy to transfer them from one patient to another.
“It’s pretty simple ... you just take an alcohol wipe and wipe it down and you’re ready to start for the next person,” Avery said.
One pair of goggles will stay at the hospital’s long-term care center, while the other set will travel among the Big Horn Basin Cancer Center, Cedar Mountain Center and West Park Hospital, according to a press release.
Even though they are considered technologically advanced, the goggles are still accessible to even the most technologically challenged person.
“The nice thing is, if you’re a senior and the technology is overwhelming, we can manage the goggles from a tablet,” Avery said. “It’s easy to pick up and go, but it’s also easy to manage [from the tablet].”
The program has a screen-share option as well, allowing those who may not want to put on the goggles to experience the program anyway.
“Not everybody wants to put on the goggles, but they might still want to be a participant,” Avery said. “So we can screen-share it up to a TV and the rest of the residents can participate by watching somebody else go through the experience.”
Though they are geared towards senior citizens, the goggles are available to any patient.
“Our care team knows these exist ... so if a nurse or somebody says ‘this would be really good for this patient,’ they can just call me up and they have access to them,” Avery said.
The goggles are even available for hospital workers and their families.
“If we have staff who want to use it or we have family that want to use it, the goggles are really meant for anybody,” Avery said. “It’s just really all about person-centered care, which includes everybody.”
The hospital will have the goggles for a two-year period, but can renew their subscription.
“If we feel like they’ve gotten really good use and the patients and our care team likes them, we will renew,” Avery said.