What is Qualia?
Qualia is all to do with the nature and quality of mental experience. How for instance the redness of red and the painfulness of pain are unique to each one of us.
Qualia environments will provide an atmosphere that stimulates and relaxes, promotes enquiry yet ensures comfort. The unique value of this approach is the integration into the daily pattern of living to redeem dignity and enhance the quality of life for all users.
Qualia can be justified if someone who is inattentive is able to focus for a few minutes, if someone who wanders can remain in one place for five minutes, or if someone who is agitated or aggressive can be calm for a period.
Who benefits from Qualia?
Qualia has proved successful with the frail elderly, those suffering from Alzheimer’s Disease and other similar conditions, those with neurological and chronic anxiety disorders as well as those with head injuries and severe depression.
Benefiting both adults and children with calming and relaxing effects for many with over-agitated moods, restlessness or communication difficulties, Qualia opens new avenues for interaction.
Qualia’s emphasis is primarily on relaxation however, stimulation should not be ignored for what may seem dormant senses. Stimulation for the elderly can be quite simple, the most significant being, conversation. Relaxing an individual within comfortable surroundings can encourage conversation and help to maintain social functioning for those whose behaviour would otherwise deteriorate more rapidly. Discussing the environment itself, the display of colours, the perception of shapes and images is a positive step. It can lead individuals to reminisce about past experiences and memories that were once considered lost.
The Qualia Environment
Qualia environments should be simple and maintain a sense of comfort and security. Too much stimulation, movement of colour and light can cause confusion or frighten individuals thus consideration must be given to the individual user’s needs.
Of vital importance is the location of the environment to ensure minimum disruption to daily living and to avoid confusion generated by change. Whether a dedicated room environment or an area within a bedroom or dayroom is established, the setting for the Qualia experience should ensure distractions are minimal or completely eliminated. Maintaining a traditional home environment by retaining many established or familiar features will ensure maximum cost effectiveness. Existing or easily recognisable furnishings, such as armchairs, sofas, houseplants and pictures provide a natural surrounding encouraging greater acceptance of the environment.
For those using Qualia the focus should be on experiencing or contributing to the environment. Combinations of lighting and visual effects, colour changing bubble tubes or mirror balls, soft music, pleasing aromas, massage and the tactile feel of textured objects, create the perfect Qualia environment.
Maintaining an open door policy to a Qualia environment encourages independent interaction and allows those who wander to freely come and go. Alternatively, by using portable equipment, there is the flexibility for private use with bed-bound individuals or general communal use.
Qualia environments encourage interaction with participants with the potential to improve or maintain their self-image, control and all round functioning and are an additional and innovative resource for both staff and relatives.
For further information, read our case study on Qualia and the Older Person, view our Qualia Products.