I have been thinking how different cultural norms affect societal behavior as the world is trying to cope with the recent onslaught of the coronavirus. When the first cases were diagnosed in China in late December/ early January, Wuhan China was able to lockdown its citizens quickly and effectively. Its people were accustomed to conformity under a Communist regime, insuring a high degree of compliance. The Democratic countries of the world gasped in horror at news scenes of enforced restrictions on movement, total economic shut down, and martial law restricting civil liberties. As each country has now been affected by this deadly virus, policy makers have had to embrace their own unique cultural history and mores to determine how to balance respect for autonomy with protection of public health. Should power to regulate be centralized or regionalized? What services must be preserved at all costs? How will acts of defiance be punished? Is public safety a greater good than independence? Tough moral decisions are being made, different approaches are being tried. Outcomes so far differ widely.
It is too early to know which approach will be ultimately most successful, but everyone is looking for guidance and hope for survival. Approaches to eldercare also differ widely. Older adults who are disoriented crave the comfort of family visitors and social routines even more than the rest of us, and are particularly agitated by the sudden drastic changes imposed by the pandemic. They are also confined and generally at greater risk of infection, creating extraordinary stress for them, their loved ones, and their caregivers.
The Validation Training Institute is an international organization which is based on a respectful, person-centered approach to communicating with disoriented older people. One of the things I love about the Validation method is how it can be practiced everywhere despite language and cultural differences. Our skilled teachers adapt to the needs of their students and those for whom they provide care, using non-verbal methods when language fails. A recent Validation tip sheet for caregivers during the coronavirus crisis is currently available in eight languages on our website’s COVID-19 Resources Page. Our YouTube How To Videos don’t just explain concepts, but demonstrate them as well. We want to be a positive unifying force helping with the challenging situations we all are facing. Currently, we talk about “flattening the curve”, but Validation has been flattening the globe for decades by showing that its techniques work in so many settings regardless of different cultural orientations. Our love and gratitude go out to all our Validation practitioners around the world. Wishing all of you continued good health and self-care.
By: Fran Bulloff, VTI President