Validation Training Institute

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Validation in dementia: the focus is on the person

By Andrea Kuhfuss

The basic training of nursing staff often does not include much time for the topic “Dealing and communicating with patients living with different forms of dementia.”  In our view, this is a major shortcoming, as the proportion of people with dementia in our homes continues to increase at the same time.  That is why we have decided to launch a company-wide continuing education program.  In June 2023, 12 nursing staff at SERVIOR became the first employees in the group to successfully complete advanced training as “Validation Workers (Level 1)”.

Validation is a special method to achieve an empathic, person-centered approach to older people who are disoriented.  Validation means to approach the person in an appreciative and respectful way, in order to better understand their behavior.  The goal is to restore dignity, understand feelings and needs, and promote self-determination.  In this way, it is possible to help the elderly to shape both their lives and the end of their lives with self-determination.

Validation – what is it anyway?

For course instructor Stephani Maser from AVA Demenz gGmbH, who has been using Validation for 25 years and has been leading certified courses as a Validation instructor for over 12 years, it is a deeply human method, because it is about seeing and accompanying the person as a human being with their abilities and not with their deficits.  An important point, besides direct contact with the disoriented elderly, is the work with relatives, because the method helps to improve the bond between the person with dementia and his family, but also with the caregivers.

The effort pays off

Since September 2022, the course participants have been intensively engaged with the topic for over 9 months.  They spent a total of 12 days of training as a group, practical work, and at the end they needed to successfully complete a case study, which was certified by Hedwig Neu, Validation Master and director of the Validation Center of the Deaconesses Speyer.  The course is divided into several blocks.  Thus, 2 days of instruction are followed by 8 weeks of practice.  The practice is also recorded on video in order to analyze and reflect on their work.  Even though this cost some participants some effort, they all agree that the training is a great enrichment and warmly recommend it to their colleagues.

For example, one participant reports that people, who previously spoke only three to four words a day, through the use of Validation, had a conversation lasting several minutes. This was a great enrichment for those people, herself and also the families. Not only does it show that this is still possible with the right approach, but people can show their feelings and receive appreciation. Families are often surprised by the rediscovered communication skills of their loved ones, and are thus encouraged that a visit is an enrichment for all.

According to course instructor Stephani Maser, the Validation method also contributes to employees’ greater satisfaction with their jobs, and they tend to work longer in the nursing field and are less likely to suffer from burnout than other colleagues.

12 graduates are just the beginning

SERVIOR has chosen Validation according to Naomi Feil because it is an internationally recognized method that has been tried and tested for many years and allows a uniform approach despite different languages in the group.  The first training course completed was in German, but in a few weeks the first French-language course will also be completed.

The goal is to offer more courses in the next two years and to train as many employees as possible in this method as Validation Workers.  Of course, it will still take some time before a larger number of employees receive the certificate.  Therefore, the current graduates play an important role as contact persons for colleagues, trainees and superiors on how to improve the contact with residents and with their relatives.