Emile Gobat was the first Castlegar Hospice Society client to try Google Daydream. He went on a virtual reality African safari. Submitted photo

Castlegar hospice virtual reality programs gets international attention

Hospice director Suzanne Lehbauer speaks at major conference.

The Castlegar Hospice Society’s ground-breaking virtual reality program is garnering international attention.

Executive director Suzanne Lehbauer was recently asked to speak at the Minnesota Network of Hospice and Palliative Care’s annual conference.

More than 1,200 people from 25 different U.S. states attended the conference. Lehbauer spoke during a learning lunch session to about 400 care providers and had a display booth in the exhibitor section.

READ MORE: Castlegar Hospice grants living wishes with virtual reality

“I was there to talk about the program and how successful it has been, and what you can do with it,” said Lehbauer.

She said that a lot of people associate virtual reality with gaming, but that is not what the hospice program is about at all.

While they do take take clients on adventure-type simulations such as safaris, the applications go a lot further.

“You can take pictures of their home, or their garden, or a video of a wedding they couldn’t attend and download it so they can watch it virtually,” explained Lehbauer. “Those things are huge for that person.”

Lehbauer received a tremendous amount of positive feedback at the conference.

“The attendees were saying, ‘Wow, why hasn’t someone thought of this before?’” said Lehbauer.

“I have pages and pages of names and organizations of different hospice people, social workers and physicians who want the whole run down on the program.”

Lehbauer says one of the most rewarding aspects to the program is how it generates memories for clients, giving them a pleasant glimpse into their history.

Lehbauer’s attendance at the conference was made possible through funding provided by RDCK Areas I and J as well as personal donations.

She says she also came back with some great ideas from other presenters that she is going to look into using here.

Lehbauer has now been invited to speak at the National Summit on Advanced Illness Care, run by a nonpartisan organization based out of Washington, D.C. which is made up of health care leaders, policy makers, advocates, academics, politicians and others in the health care field.

If you would like to donate funds or equipment for the local virtual reality program contact Lehbauer at 250-304-1266.

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