If you know of an older adult who has memory loss and confusion, then you know how difficult it can be to communicate with him or her.
Some of you may have seen Odile Lavault playing the accordion with the group “Baguette Quartette” performing in cafes and musical venues or listened to the CDs. Six years ago, Odile redirected her musical talents into a communication technique called “The Validation Method.” This technique, developed in the 1980’s by Naomi Feil teaches both professional and family caregivers how to empathize, understand and communicate with old-old disoriented people.
According to Naomi Feil, the incomprehensible and illogical behavior that people with dementia sometimes exhibit is an attempt by the person to communicate and express their needs. Odile describes the aim of the Validation Method is to allow care-partners to enter the personal reality of a disoriented person to reduce their anxiety, decrease the need for medication or physical restraints, improve their sense of self worth and allow them to feel safe when communicating and relating to another person. At the same time the care partner can feel more fulfilled and better prepared to handle difficult situations that can occur with people who are demented.
The following is an example from Naomi Feil of how the validation method works to help communication between a person with dementia and their caregiver. First is a scenario that is less than optimal:
Mrs. K: “Doctor, I have to go home now to feed my children.”
Physician: “Mrs. K, you can’t go home. Your children are not there. You are 96 years old. Your children are grown and live far away.”
Mrs. K: “Oh Doctor I know all that. That’s why I have to get out of here, right now. I have to feed them. They’re coming home for lunch, the the door is locked. Get me out of here!”
The following then shows how the validation method focuses on the objective here and now and avoids asking why, a concept that disoriented older people may not wish or be able to deal with.
Mrs. K: Doctor, I have to go home now to feed my children.”
Physician: “You must have been a good mother. You must miss your children.”
Mrs. K: “You know it. I always cared for them. Whatever they wanted, I gave them. You guessed it. But I get along all right now without them.”
Odile works as a validation therapist at a home for the aged in the Bay Area and she teaches workshops on the validation method to both professional and family care-partners. She emphasizes acceptance of the disoriented older person just the way they are in the moment, without trying to change them. This can then create an exchange of genuine, trusting moments.
For more information about the Validation Method, go to http://www.vfvalidation.org or you can contact Odile at firstname.lastname@example.org.
To listen to and/or download Corinne’s conversation with Odile Lavault click the following link: 8-11-2014-Corinne_Odile Lavault.mp3