According to the report “Caregiving in America” from the Caregivers Library, approximately 1.4 million seniors over the age of 65 live at nursing homes and even more live at home, many of whom rely on caregivers for support. Alzheimer’s disease affects one in nine older Americans, meaning there are millions of caregivers helping loved ones who are struggling to live on their own.
While the role of caregiver has many rewards, it can also be overwhelming, confusing, and emotionally and physically draining. If you are the caregiver of a loved one living with Alzheimer’s or other forms of dementia, it is important to know that you are not alone, and that there are techniques that can help you address behavioral expressions that often come as a side effect of the condition.
At Sunrise, we offer support for caregivers dealing with the impact of memory loss. Rita Altman, our SVP of Memory Care and Program Services, has spent years studying and applying Naomi Feil’s Validation Method (she is one of only 10 Validation Masters in the world), and believes it can be an effective technique to rebuild lines of communication and reduce stress for both the caregiver and person with memory loss.
What is the Validation Method?
According to Rita, the Validation Method addresses our basic human needs: to be listened to and heard, to feel loved and to have a sense of purpose. The theory behind the Validation Method is to empathize with a person, even if what he or she is expressing doesn’t seem to make sense. Feil, a geriatric social worker and researcher, says the technique involves “accepting whatever behavior the person has and trying to become a part of it.”
Listening is vital to the Validation Method, and in order to help the person who may be struggling to resolve unfinished issues, listening and showing empathy and respect is necessary so the person feels valued and not judged.
The Validation Method in Practice
Rita gave the following example of the Validation Method in practice to The Washington Post: A woman with advanced dementia was sitting alone, rocking her hands as if caressing a baby. Altman asked the woman if she loved to hold her baby. The woman, who was no longer able to communicate full sentences, looked her in the eye and said yes. Altman set a doll in the resident’s arms as if it were her baby, and together they hummed a lullaby.
Rita says that caregivers often try to reorient the person into reality or redirect them with an activity, which can potentially worsen the situation and cause anxiety. For example, if a loved one tells you a story that you don’t think actually happened, don’t correct them. Redirect the conversation, prompting them to tell you another story, even if unrelated. This encourages your loved one to express his or her feelings freely.
For additional guidance and tips for using the Validation Method, visit the Sunrise website.
Tips for Caregivers
Caring for a loved one with memory loss can be challenging and frustrating, but in order to succeed, it’s crucial that the caregiver take care of themselves as well. Here are three tips for maintaining an active and healthy lifestyle while balancing caregiver duties.
At Sunrise Senior Living, we strive to help caregivers get the support they need throughout their loved ones’ journey. Visit our website for more information, answers and support. Also check out our Guide, to find a range of advice from Rita and other experts on caregiving tips.
About Sunrise Senior Living
Sunrise Senior Living, a McLean, Va.-based company, employs approximately 30,500 people. As of November 1, 2015, Sunrise operated 307 communities in the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom, including 15 Gracewell Healthcare communities, with a total unit capacity of approximately 27,400. Sunrise offers a full range of personalized senior living services, including independent living, assisted living, care for individuals with Alzheimer's and other forms of memory loss, as well as nursing and rehabilitative services. Sunrise's senior living services are delivered by team members who are trained to encourage independence, preserve dignity, enable freedom of choice and protect the privacy of residents. To learn more about Sunrise, please visit SunriseSeniorLiving.com.