Being a son of Naomi Feil, it’s not a surprise that I was raised with older adults always in my life. I remember going to my mother’s work at the Montefiore Home in Cleveland, Ohio when I was in preschool and elementary school for visits. It wasn’t often – maybe 3 or 4 times a year. My brother and I would visit with the residents and talk with them a little. I had an interest in magic, so I performed a show for the residents one time which gave me with a lot of attention and smiles from the audience. That time in my life is so clear and resonant in my mind. I think that early environment while Naomi was developing the Validation method shaped the person I am today. Acceptance — validating people as they are — has been a foundational aspect of my life. Certainly, it’s not always easy to do — but it’s an excellent aspiration and provides a great moral compass.
In my personal life, as my wife and I support our parents as they age, I have tried to express Validation principles. We have been very fortunate to have the resources (time, space, and finances) to have our parents living with us. There have been many great times but also some tough periods.
My father (Naomi’s husband of 57 years) needed increasing support in daily living as he aged. His caregiving needs became significantly more complex and overwhelming for me and our team of paid caregivers. I’m not sure I could have managed it all by myself. I am lucky to have a very supportive family. I have a brother and sisters scattered all over the east coast of the US as well as in Europe. But with technology, they can be key supporters for my parents.
We have found that the internet and mobile communication helped us overcome many obstacles. The use of phone, social media, web-based video conferencing and e-mail provided a great amount of direct and instrumental support, feedback, and encouragement for both me and the paid caregivers. I think that we have created a small virtual support group of family and paid caregivers using technology. This virtual support has helped me feel less alone. Because of the almost complete saturation of computers and internet/mobile use in our lives, these technologies are now used broadly. We are not alone. With the COVID-19 pandemic, many home caregivers who are struggling with isolation due to social distancing are now leveraging technology to help.
The Validation Training Institute (VTI) was an early adopter of internet-based coursework. Since 2011, VTI has provided engaging and active high quality online courses and tutorials that uses technology to maintain high implementation fidelity while reaching people in their own homes and workplaces. Most recently, they have launched a new, on-demand Skill Building Blocks digital course for families and caregivers who want to learn basic Validation techniques to improve communication with the older adults in their lives: https://vfvalidation.org/news/2021/10/11/new-skill-building-course/
By: Edward G. Feil, Ph.D., Senior Research Scientist, Oregon Research Institute
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.