At a British Columbia hospice, patients are going on safaris to Africa, riding camels beside the pyramids of Giza, cliff jumping and experiencing other once-in-a-lifetime moments — all through a new virtual reality system. 

Suzanne Lehbauer, the executive director of Castlegar Hospice, said helping patients fulfil their end-of-life wishes has always been a priority.

Advancements in technology help makes the impossible possible and takes wish-granting one step further, she told CBC host of Daybreak South Chris Walker.   

"A hospice is all about living right until the very end," Lehbauer said. "If you had something on your bucket list like skydiving or climbing Mount Everest or going to a museum, we can take you there virtually so you can experience that."

The hospice uses virtual reality goggles and the Google Daydream virtual reality system, connected to a smart phone. This makes it light and easy to use, she explained, and patients can choose experiences from various apps.

Memories and new experiences

Sometimes, the experience can be as simple as looking at the stars again, Lehbauer said, or using Google Street View to go back home. Other times, patients go on more elaborate trips.

"Our first client, who is just an incredible 95-year-old gentleman, decided to go on a safari to Kenya," Lehbauer said. "As he was experiencing it, it brought back all these fabulous memories of when he was on a cruise with his wife and they went to Africa and all the different things that he saw with his wife during that time."

Lehbauer said the experience was moving for all those involved, including the staff supporting the patient.

"It was truly an inspirational and defining moment for me, it was just breathtaking," she said.

Lehbauer is now working on a toolkit to help other hospices bring in the new technology and offer virtual wish-granting services to their patients.

To listen to the full interview, click on the audio link below. 

With files from Daybreak South