UPDATE (Sept. 26, 2016): The ‘Worker’ course mentioned in this article has been re-scheduled from Oct. 3 to a date to be determined. Once we have determined the new date, we will update all interested parties. Thanks!
Editor’s Note: The Validation Training Institute (VTI)—in partnership with Alzheimer’s Orange County—will offer a “Validation Internet-Supported Level I ‘Worker’ Course” that starts on Oct. 3, 2016 and runs until August 2017.
In advance of the course, VTI is offering a free, 30-minute “teaser” class on Sept. 19 that will be open to 47 lucky attendees. The teaser class will be a preview of the longer course. As an added bonus, teaser class attendees will also receive a 15 percent discount coupon code that can be applied to the Oct. 3 course. For more information, on both the teaser and the Level I Worker Course, visit the course page.
In the time leading up to both the teaser and the longer course, we will be sharing “Q&As” with the certified instructors who will be presenting the curriculum. Today is the first installment of that three-part series. Today, we’ll meet Validation Teacher Eric Portnoff.
VTI: Thank you for joining us today, Eric. So, where do you live now?
EP: I was born in Brooklyn, N.Y., raised in Olympia, Wash., and spent most of my adult life in the Seattle area. In 2011, I moved to Sacramento, Calif., to have more sunlight in my life and that has been my home base ever since.
VTI: What do you do for a living?
EP: I was an Executive Director for Sunrise Senior Living from 2008 to 2010, then a Regional Director of Memory Care for the same company until 2015. I taught a Validation course in Beijing in 2015/2016 and am now the International Director of Memory Care & Validation Training for Meridian Senior Living.
VTI: What do you like to do when you are not working?
EP: Meditate, exercise (especially racquetball), spend time with friends and family, hike, scuba dive, travel and camp.
VTI: What/who got you interested in Validation?
EP: I was introduced to Validation at Sunrise Senior Living in 2008. Validation Master Rita Altman was Sunrise’s National Director of Memory Care and created an amazing training course called The Journey of Discovery, which included many Validation principles and techniques. In 2010 I took the Validation Worker 1 course and I became a teacher in 2014.
VTI: How long have you been a teacher?
EP: I have been a Validation Teacher since 2014 and was involved in developing and teaching the first Internet-supported courses. I spent parts of 2015 and 2016 traveling in SE Asia, India, Nepal and China and completed the first Validation Worker course in China in July 2016.
VTI: Was there a specific moment when you first realized Validation worked? If so, what was that moment?
EP:After taking The Journey of Discovery class I mentioned above, I tried using several Validation techniques with residents in the community I directed. I had immediate, very dramatic breakthroughs with two residents, one of whom was nearly non-verbal and spoke very clearly for the first time in many months. These successes excited me very much and motivated me to continue learning about Validation.
VTI: What the most important thing Validation has taught you?
EP: Validation has taught me to enter a state of receptivity and connection that seems to really benefit elders with dementia with whom I communicate. This is called the Basic Attitude and is a profound state of mind with far-reaching consequences and benefits. Secondly, I have learned and mastered communication techniques that help elders feel accepted, understood and valued. Finally, Validation has offered a conceptual model for understanding where elders with dementia are developmentally, psychologically and experientially. This understanding informs one’s approach and use of techniques.
VTI: What is the most challenging part about practicing Validation?
EP: It is different for everyone. Many beginning students struggle with centering and being present rather than feeling anxious about their own performance or reactions. Some students have a hard time recognizing when an interaction is remaining superficial and knowing how to open things to a deeper level of feelings and needs. For some, working with Maloriented individuals who express a lot of anger is difficult, or connecting with people who are non-verbal. For me personally, working with people in Vegetation is the most challenging because there can be so little feedback from them.
VTI: Why should a student invest in a class, as opposed to simply reading a book on Validation?
EP: Really learning how to Validate is experiential rather than conceptual. You get better at it over time through practice, reflection, and discussion with and feedback from others. I also want to point out that the main investment isn’t the money, it’s the time. A Validation course reflects a significant investment of time and emotional capital. Those who make the investment, however, are richly rewarded by meaningful experiences of connection and service to others. You will learn a lot about yourself and how you can best be there and support and help others who need an anchor in their lives.
VTI: Who can most benefit from this class?
EP: Anyone who is ready to set themselves aside temporarily to really learn how to be present, accepting, open and skillful in responding to another person and helping them move forward in a meaningful way. Family members and professionals at every level can benefit from this revolutionary approach to relating to people with dementia.
VTI: Anything else you’d like to add?
EP: Validation is useful even outside of the realm of senior care. Many of the principles and techniques are universal and help us in understanding ourselves and everyone else. This can lead to a more compassionate, thoughtful and skillful approach to ourselves and other important people in our lives.