ARTICLES / General /Validation Therapy /
By Naomi Feil, M.S., A.C.S.W.
(Page 2 of 2)
Many autopsies have uncovered Alzheimer plaques and
tangles in brains of very old people who were never
diagnosed with dementia. Many very old people, 85 to one
100, are interested in the outside world. They have
learned to roll with the punches of aging; they do not
hang onto outworn roles. They accept what they cannot
change. But there are many very old people who have
never learned to deal with their losses or their
emotions. They cannot face the loss of memory, job,
mobility, or control. These are the people who must now
look inside. Their job is not to know the outside world.
In their old age, they are simply preparing for their
final move. They no longer care about the present.
Caregivers can help these people communicate their
feelings and put past issues to rest. Rather than
viewing them as diseased, we can see them simply as very
old people in their final life struggle. When we tune
into their inner world, we begin to understand that a
retreat into personal history is a survival strategy,
not mental illness. Then we are better prepared to
listen with empathy rather than frustration when they
step away from reality.
This is validation therapy—a tested method that can be
used by both professionals and family members. I
developed the therapy in 1963 when, as a social worker,
I became frustrated with traditional, reality-oriented
approaches to dealing with confused elders age 80 and
older. Since then, it’s become state of the art and has
been embraced by more than three thousand agencies
nationwide. For many decades, validation therapy has
helped the very old restore the past, relive good times,
and resolve past conflicts. In doing so, it has reduced
their stress, enhanced their dignity, and increased
their happiness and sense of well-being.