Validation is a good feeling. Most of us try to surround ourselves with people who, through their words and actions, make us feel understood and supported. The need to feel validated doesn’t disappear when someone develops Alzheimer’s disease or other types of dementia, but it can be hard for loves ones and caregivers to provide validation to someone whose mental state is so different from their own. That’s where validation therapy comes in.
Validation therapy involves communicating with people who have dementia in a way that acknowledges their words and actions with respect and empathy, rather than with embarrassment, anger or dismissiveness.
The theory behind validation therapy suggests that people in this situation are driven by basic needs that are hard for them to express because of their disease. Those needs can include feeling loved, safe, useful and ultimately, at peace. Validation therapy can be used by loved ones and caregivers to help people with dementia work through their struggle to express these needs.
The most important part of validation therapy is listening. At Primrose we practice listening attentively and responding respectively. We want to validate each resident by showing our willingness to enter their world, rather than trying to force them into ours. Here are a few validation strategies you can use when interacting with someone who has dementia:
- Use a clear, low-pitched, loving voice.
- Make eye contact.
- Don’t argue with them.
- Don’t ask them why they did or said something or tell them they’re wrong.
- Turn the conversation toward a positive memory from their youth that’s related to something they’re doing or saying in the pre-sent.
- Try to set your emotions aside so you can really focus on what they’re saying, what they’re do-ing, the ways in which those things may reflect issues they’re struggling with, and how you can respond in a way that makes them feel heard.
(Adapted from Elmcroft)