Old woman enjoying virtual reality simulator
A virtual reality program for older adults with kidney disease has received grant funding. (Credit: RGStudio / Getty Images)

A nurse-moderated virtual reality program for older adults with kidney disease, and an algorithm project for advanced care planning, have received a funding boost as part of an end-of-life grant initiative. 

The funding comes courtesy of the Rita and Alex Hillman Foundation, which announced the grants last week. 

Overall, $500,000 was awarded to nine organizations that have technologies or programs that deal with end-of-life care.

“The quality of care delivered at the end of life is a bellwether for our society,” Hill Foundation Executive Director Ahrin Mishan said in a statement. “We believe that nurse-designed innovations can help to ensure that all people with serious illness have access to the compassionate, equitable and trustworthy care they deserve.”

The virtual reality project is meant to address both loneliness and health literacy in patients with end-stage kidney disease.

Although it often progresses slowly, chronic kidney disease affects as many as half of nursing home patients. Adults aged 75 or more years are the fast-growing cohort of dialysis patients, one study shows.

“Boredom and anxiety too often prompt patients with end stage kidney disease to skip hemodialysis,” a project summary warns. The VR study will be conducted by researchers at the University of Pennsylvania. 

Similarly, the advanced care algorithm is targeted at older adults who lack social support; the initial research conducted last year characterized them as seniors who “live alone or in transitional situations” and thus don’t have surrogates or a plan in case of emergencies or death.

The data collected in the latter study could allow care providers to understand more about social determinants of a residents’ health, the study authors suggest.

“When patients lack decisional capacity and advance directives, a care team is able to identify a default surrogate who knows the patients’ values, beliefs and preferences and can offer a substitute judgment,” the study authors wrote.