In the fall of 1997, I read about Validation for the first time in a “Basics of Gerontology” course. I can still remember how intrigued I was. I wouldn’t revisit Validation and experience its full impact again until 2004, when I became a director of my first community with memory care.
My company at the time encouraged the use of Validation in our community, and I remember my first interaction with a resident after learning how to use these techniques. He was sitting on the couch, and his family had told me he didn’t really communicate much anymore. When I discovered that he had been passionate about baseball, I thought I would try the technique of reminiscing, so I centered myself and sat down beside him. I began to sing, “Take Me Out to the Ballgame,” and after a few bars from my very untalented voice, he started to pat his knee with his hand and then he began to sing along with me. I still remember the moment he looked at me and I could see a spark of amusement and life in his eyes.
Back in my office I just took some time to think about that magical moment. I also began to think about my own grandmother who had passed away by then from an undiagnosed dementia. The nursing community she lived in did not have the Validation programming we were practicing. She passed away without the kind of interaction that could have given her moments of awareness and pleasure, and I could not help but wish I had known how to help her to experience that before she died.
I did have a chance on a few occasions to speak with her, even though she was no longer able to recognize me. She had reverted to her German native language, and fortunately I could speak German. As I think back to those conversations, even though she may not have known that I was her grandson, speaking German with her probably sparked memories that brought her into the moment.
Ever since her death, I have made it part of my life’s work to help educate and direct others to use Validation. In one of my most rewarding lifetime experiences, I had the opportunity to accompany Naomi Feil as she taught the first ever workshop about Validation in Beijing, China to a sold-out crowd.
Naomi Feil no longer does in-person workshops, but you can learn Validation basics if you watch her workshop documentary. If you are working with someone who could benefit from validation techniques, visit vfvalidation.org for an introduction to Validation, a profile of Naomi Feil, and many other related resources.
By: Kevin Carlin, VTI Board Member, Principal and Chief Sales and Culture Officer, Meridian Senior Living
The Validation Training Institute (VTI) is a non-profit organization that advances knowledge, values, education and research rooted in the Validation method. The objective is to nurture respect, dignity and well-being in the lives of older adults experiencing age-related cognitive decline and their caregivers. Our vision for the future is that every older adult experiencing age-related cognitive decline, and their caregiver, can feel the joy and love of meaningful communication.