Validation therapy is a communication approach to dementia treatment that uses empathy and understanding, helping the person with dementia to feel heard and maintain their dignity.
In using validation therapy, the caregiver listens carefully to the feelings underlying behavior of those in late-stage dementia. The therapeutic techniques enable connection and engagement between the caregiver and the senior experiencing dementia symptoms. At the core of validation therapy, is the understanding that upset behavior indicates an unmet need. By providing understanding, caregivers are more able to get to the heart of what that unmet need is.
Developed by Naomi Feil in the 1980s, validation therapy focuses on respectful, caring responses to the reality that a person with dementia is expressing, rather than trying to correct or confront, Challenging behaviors are seen as attempts to communicate feelings – therapies are focused on the root of the behavior, rather than the actual behavior. This can calm those with anxiety and agitation and the behaviors brought about by the anxiety.
Validation therapy can help people with dementia symptoms feel listened to, respected, and cared for with dignity. By being supportive, caregivers and family members, using validation therapy can lessen the anxiety and agitation that people with dementia feel. As the person is able to let go of their anxiety, they may be able to participate in activities.
Reported benefits through Feil’s research include an increase in self-worth, some re-entry into the outside world, better communication, help in resolving unfinished life issues, and facilitation of independent living.
As people with dementia respond to these therapies, it can also benefit caregivers and family members as challenging behaviors lessen and issues from the past are brought forward. With better understanding, deeper bonds can be formed and renewed.
To use a validation therapy approach, use these three steps to guide your thinking:
Some other validation therapy strategies include:
Remember that reality for the late-stage dementia patient may be different from what we are experiencing. Acknowledging your loved one’s feelings and experiences enables them to continue with dignity.
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