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Information on Validation Therapy

Career News March 16, 2013

Nurses who specialize in caring for the elderly should be knowledgeable about validation therapy. It is tremendously challenging to care for this sector of the population. Some of these patients display varying degrees of disorientation and some of them can become violent. Others are in an almost vegetative state. The first thing that most people do when they encounter this type of situation is to try to reason with the patient and bring them back to the present. Those who advocate the use of validation therapy state that caregivers should acknowledge how the patient is feeling at the time. By trying to change the situation, they could actually be making the situation worse.

A Brief History of Validation Therapy

Naomi Feil grew up in a home for the elderly and through this experience she developed a close relationship with seniors who were disoriented. When she graduated from college, she returned to this home to try and bring the residents back to reality. She endured failure after failure and finally realized that the residents were more relieved when she went along with them. She noticed that they became less anxious. This validation therapy was first known as the Feil Method and developed as a result of the research conducted with these seniors.

The Process of Validation Therapy

In validation therapy, you acknowledge that the elderly are in a fantasy world because of their stress. When people encounter hardship, the first reaction is denial, and this gets deeper as the level of hardship increases. As the aged face ever-increasing pain, failure of their bodies, and repeated loss of love ones, it is not a surprise that they turn to the past to restore some sense of peace.

A caregiver that practices validation therapy helps the patient by acknowledging that this person is feeling frustrated. Let’s look at an example of how this works. An older man insists on looking for his car keys because he will be late to pick up his wife. The caregiver knows that this is not the case, and there is no car. Instead of trying to convince the patient that he is wrong, the caregiver goes along with him to try to get to the reason for the frustrated feelings.

The conversation between the two could be something as follows:

Elderly Man: “My wife will not like it if she comes out of church and I am not there to pick her up.”
Caregiver: “Is that something you always do – pick up your wife after the church service?”
Elderly Man: “Well if I don’t, she will not get home.”
Caregiver: “So you like helping your wife?”
Elderly Man: “Well that is what a husband does isn’t it? I love my wife.”
Caregiver: “Yes it is. I love my wife too. Would you like to see a photo of her?”

This situation demonstrates the way in which the caregiver can acknowledge the reason for the patient’s frustration and at the same time bring him back to the present. Advocates of the validation therapy use this method when dealing with patients who display disorientation, which is far more productive than getting the patient even more frustrated by trying to convince them that they are wrong.

Using Validation Therapy

The main purpose of using validation therapy is to assist patients who are disoriented by reducing their level of stress and help them back to reality. It does prove that even in these patients, they have goals in their lives, and they feel that they have something left to accomplish in their lives. By using validation therapy, caregivers can help patients achieve a better quality of life. Some of the ways in which they can do this are:

•Clear thoughts
•Realizing that things are in the past
•Maintain dignity
•Express frustration

What is Most Important?

It is definitely necessary to face reality. The elderly do need to be brought back to reality when they are disoriented. Through validation therapy, you will achieve this result, but you go about it in a different way.

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