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Validation Therapy

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Validation TherapyEvery person regardless of age enjoys the sensation of having their thoughts, feelings, and actions validated. It helps us to feel supported and cherished. As people grow older, the feeling of validation can become even more important as the ability to physically contribute diminishes. Seniors who suffer from dementia or Alzheimer’s disease are especially vulnerable and need even more validation than typical seniors. It is often challenging for loved ones, spouses, and caregivers to offer the proper amount of validation when caring for a person who has a compromised mental state. Responding with frustration or anger can also further trigger their decline. Validation therapy is one way that can help seniors with memory conditions get the support they need to live life as normally as possible.

What Is Validation Therapy?

While you may understand what validation is, that doesn’t really explain validation therapy. Validation therapy is a unique way of communicating with seniors who suffer from Alzheimer’s disease, dementia, and other memory conditions. The method of communication transforms the way a person speaks from dismissiveness, anger, and embarrassment to a more positive note. Communicating in a method that acknowledges the actions and words of the senior in a way that implies empathy and respect helps to validate their feelings and words.

The critical part of validation therapy for memory-impaired seniors is active and attentive listening. Too often, seniors with memory conditions are ignored or patronized which can lead to feelings of frustration, helplessness and anger. When a caregiver or family member listens to their words carefully and responds in a positive manner, it signals a willingness to communicate on their level. It is not possible or effective to attempt to force a memory-impaired senior to communicate the same way a fully healthy elderly person would. Their condition prevents it no matter how hard they may attempt to do so. Interacting with them in a way they can understand and respond not only encourages further activity, but it also validates their importance as an individual.

Who is a Good Candidate for Validation Therapy?

Elderly people who suffer from the middle and advanced stages of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease are excellent candidates for validation therapy. Seniors who suffer from moderate or severe dementia are also very good candidates. Other seniors or people who suffer from memory ailments who will benefit from positive reinforcement can also use validation therapy as part of their regular treatment.

Validation therapy theories are based on the idea that memory-impaired seniors are driven to certain behaviors and emotions due to their inability to express their basic needs. Memory conditions have a profound effect on how a senior citizen feels in regards to their safety, feelings of love, usefulness, and even their mental peace regarding aging and death. The application of validation therapy by caregivers and loved ones helps ease the stress of difficult communication.

How Was Validation Therapy Developed?

Validation therapy was created in the late 1960s by Naomi Feil as a holistic treatment for elderly patients who suffered from dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. This holistic therapy helps seniors connect through dignified communication, observation, and patience which brings them peace during the final stages of their condition.

De Hogeweyk’s Dementiaville located in Amsterdam is a community for Alzheimer’s patients that caters to the unique symptoms that most seniors with the condition suffer from. This community helps these memory care patients live in a manner that gives them a higher quality of life. This is achieved through patient compassion despite the hallucinations and other symptoms caused by the disease. Validation therapy is based on the same idea, but it can be applied in any location with both dementia patients and Alzheimer’s patients on a smaller scale.

Naomi Feil developed validation therapy as she became frustrated with the way most medical doctors and faculties treated elderly people with memory conditions. Not only did she find the then traditional methods ineffective, but she also found they could increase the rate of regression. Over the next 17 years, Naomi Feil developed and perfected the validation therapy method which they taught via in-person seminars, training guides, and videos.

Why is Validation Therapy Effective?

Several studies detail the benefits and effects of validation therapy among seniors with memory conditions. The therapy is effective because it reaches to the core issues that make people who they are and define human nature. Validation therapy places a great emphasis on listening to seniors and showing empathy to their feelings.

Many seniors with dementia and Alzheimer’s disease tend to lose their sense of self and importance. This can lead to a lower quality of life, depression, and a quicker decline in their mental state, requiring the help of a local memory care facility. The therapy helps to remove these roadblocks by treating seniors as the very important and unique individuals that they are. Caregivers and loved ones are able to promote senior expression through validation therapy both non-verbally and verbally.

Ignoring strange behavior or attempting to stop such behaviors in a senior who suffers from a memory condition can cause frustration for all parties. Validation therapy offers a solution by focusing on the present instead of focusing on the reasons for the senior's odd behaviors.

Validation therapy’s effectiveness can be directly tied to the premise that every senior is unique and should be treated as if they are whole. By acknowledging the value of a senior regardless of their mental state and without judgment, it can help stave off psychological problems.

Seniors who struggle with memory conditions often try to restore gaps in their lives by falling back on earlier memories. This is an attempt to restore balance and employing validation therapy helps to maintain that balance they so desperately seek. Feelings of frustration, pain, and heartbreak will diminish as they are allowed to be expressed by the senior. Once those feelings are acknowledged and then validated by a person in positions of trust, they will lose their hold and diminish if not disappear completely.

How Validation Therapy Can Help Seniors with Alzheimer’s & Dementia

The human brain is a complex organ that we may never fully understand. Validation therapy offers critical insight into the behavior and thoughts of those who suffer from dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. Validation therapy helps others to better communicate with seniors who suffer from hallucinations, disorientation, and other side effects from their conditions. The therapy helps to lower stress levels while also increasing their quality of life. By engaging seniors with memory conditions on their level, they are able to enhance their dignity and improve their overall level of happiness.

These essential engagements also help caregivers and medical providers to better understand how these conditions cause certain behaviors. It is important to note that not every facility or doctor agrees with validation therapy methods. Those who do embrace validation therapy will attest to the improved quality of life that seniors with memory conditions experience under the treatment.

Seniors who suffer from dementia and Alzheimer’s disease will feel more appreciated and heard through validation therapy. It is easy for those who suffer from memory conditions to feel dismissed and helpless. These feelings can cause anger, negative feelings, depression and lead to avoidable arguments that will trigger further episodes. Seniors with memory ailments often exhibit negative behaviors when they are not understood and when they feel they have been disrespected.

Validation Therapy Examples & Caregiver Benefits

When a senior suffers from dementia or Alzheimer’s disease, it can be very difficult to communicate. This can cause them to become more withdrawn or even combative. Validation therapy helps loved ones, and caregivers to communicate more effectively which improves the temperament and mental health of the senior in question as a result. It has proven effective in slowing the mental deterioration of seniors with memory conditions as well as improving communication, mood and overall quality of life.

For caregivers and loved ones, this helps to reduce the stress that builds from caring for memory care seniors, while also helping them to understand the seniors better. Validation therapy also helps caregivers to learn what triggers and actions lead to certain negative behaviors which can help when planning a senior's future care. There are many ways to put validation therapy into effect in the home or in an assisted living or nursing home care setting.

Examples of validation therapy are methods such as:

  • Making direct eye contact with the senior when speaking to them.
  • Maintaining a loving or gentle tone of voice during communications.
  • Making an effort to always speak in low tones with a clear voice.
  • Avoiding arguments or challenging their behaviors and hallucinations.
  • Avoid challenging their statements, instead, ask them to elaborate on their feelings.

As a caregiver, it is important to set your personal emotions aside to focus on what the senior is saying and doing. This is one of the most important aspects of validation therapy that will help you to understand what the senior may be struggling with. Understanding allows for a proper response to be formed. One way to use validation therapy to keep the senior in the present is by relating a happy memory from their past that is relevant to something they are doing or saying in the present. This will often arrest negative behavior while also encouraging positive feelings and thoughts.

Admittedly, seniors who suffer from Alzheimer’s disease and dementia may often behave in ways that make those around them uncomfortable. Instead of reacting with embarrassment, unease, or irritation, try using validation therapy instead. Not only will your discomfort be eased, but the senior will also feel heard and appreciated.

Physicians & Validation Therapy

Sometimes, validation therapy can be employed in a group or one-on-one setting with a medical professional. This is especially effective when loved ones or caregivers are unable to apply the method properly, or when the senior is mistrustful. A doctor such as the patient's regular GP or a therapist may employ validation therapy as a means to comfort their senior patient.

By speaking with the elderly person about their feelings and providing meaningful conversation, the need for heavy medications is mitigated. Many seniors who suffer from memory conditions such as dementia or Alzheimer’s disease suffer from hallucinations, disorientation, and confusion. As a result, anxiety, anger, depression, and irritation naturally increase. Instead of being medicated to reduce anxiety or calm anger, speaking with them via empathetic statements helps to validate their experiences.

The Advantages of Validation Therapy for Memory Impaired Seniors

Anyone who interacts with a senior who suffers from a memory condition is able to use validation therapy to help improve their communication efforts. There are more than 10,000 agencies that use validation therapy for seniors and numerous locations where individuals can get training.

Seniors with memory conditions have behaviors that will fluctuate daily and employing validation therapy may offer permanent benefits. Constant use of the therapy in dementia patients causes seniors to sit up straight and be attentive more often. It also helps them to display an increased amount of social control. In Alzheimer’s patients, it has been noted to decrease the amount of wandering and emotional outbursts they experience.

By validating the thoughts, feelings, and experiences of memory patients, there is a decreased need for physical restraint and chemical control in the form of medical anxiety depressants. This helps seniors to communicate more efficiently both verbally and non-verbally. As the need for restraint is removed, it allows seniors to become more mentally active and present in their daily lives. There are many more permanent changes that come with long term use of validation therapy in senior memory care patients that will vary from person to person.

Living with a memory condition or caring for a loved one who suffers from a condition can be difficult. There are many treatments available to help ease the stress and behavioral issues that come from dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. Validation therapy is one of the best holistic options available that can be used by caregivers, loved ones, and physicians to help reduce anxiety, depression, and other negative emotions caused by memory conditions.



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