With the increasing number of people falling victim to Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia, new and innovative ways to care for patients has become a priority, especially in dementia care facilities. Sunrise Senior Living, which operates 365 senior care communities in the United States, Canada, Germany and the United Kingdom, recently announced that it has become an authorized Validation organization with the Validation Training Institute, a not-for-profit organization offering training and certification in the Validation Method used to care for individuals with Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia. Over the next few months, Sunrise professional caregivers will begin certification training in the Validation Method. What’s more, Sunrise’s recognition as a training center will greatly expand the number of trained caregivers using the Validation Method in the United States.
The High Value of Validation
Sunrise has had a long-standing commitment to excellent memory care and a highly trained staff at its senior care communities. Said Mark Ordan, chief executive officer for Sunrise, describing the care provider’s decision to offer the Validation Method, “This opportunity to certify Sunrise team members sets a new standard for care in assisted living communities that deliver the dignity and respect deserved by seniors and their loved ones.”
What defines this groundbreaking approach to dementia? The Validation Method is a globally acclaimed protocol for care developed by Naomi Feil, MS, ACSW, and published in her 1982 book, Validation: The Feil Method. Feil’s philosophy for dementia care is holistic and based in her understanding that unusual behaviors expressed by dementia sufferers are often due to a combination of cognitive, physical and social losses, and represent an attempt to express unresolved feelings and emotions. Caregivers can deliver more ease, pleasure and dignity to those with dementia by using empathy to validate these individuals’ desire to communicate.
Here are the key tenets of the Validation Method:
- Validation is a method of communicating with and helping disoriented very old people. It is a practical approach that helps reduce stress, enhance dignity and increase happiness. Validation is built on an empathetic attitude and a holistic view of individuals. By stepping into the shoes of another human being and seeing the world through their eyes, caregivers can step into their world and better understand the meaning of their sometimes bizarre behavior.
- Validation theory understands that these patients are often in the final stage of life and trying to resolve unfinished issues in order to die in peace. Validation techniques allow patients to have the opportunity to express what they wish to express verbally or non-verbally.
- Validation practitioners are taught to be caring, non-judgmental and open to the feelings that patients expressed, believing that when patients can express the things that have often been suppressed for many years, the intensity of the feelings lessen, they communicate more and are less likely to withdraw into further stages of disorientation.
While leaders of the Validation Method warn that changes in behavior are slow and will fluctuate from day to day, permanent positive changes do happen. Some improvements include displaying more social controls; less crying, pacing, pounding and withdrawal; more verbal and non-verbal communication; and an improved sense of self-worth. There are benefits for the caregiving staff at senior facilities, too—better morale and less burnout. Over 10,000 agencies in the US, Canada, Europe, Japan and Australia now use Validation Method.
Sunrise has long used techniques from the Validation Method to train team members and benefit its residents. This new opportunity for certification, however, will deepen its professional caregivers’ understanding of the Validation Method and enhance their ability to care for dementia residents as well as educate and support their family members. “Sunrise Senior Living’s new certification is a major milestone for the Validation Method in America,” said Ms. Feil. “Their leadership will have an enormous positive impact on the quality of care for seniors with memory loss and on the quality of training for care providers.”
“It is thrilling to be able to work more closely with Naomi Feil, whose groundbreaking work has taught us all that listening with empathy to those with dementia can reveal so much about our shared humanity,” said Rita Altman, national director of Memory Care Services for Sunrise and one of only four Validation Masters in the world. “Much of the frustration and anxiety of trying to care for those with dementia can be eliminated once caregivers understand how to reestablish the lines of communication. The Validation Method is also in keeping with Sunrise’s principles of service—encouraging independence, enabling freedom of choice, preserving dignity, celebrating individuality, nurturing the spirit and involving family and friends—and will enhance what has already been established at Sunrise allowing us to truly improve the quality of life for our residents.”
Sunrise’s flagship memory care program, called Reminiscence, provides a safe and stimulating environment for individuals to enjoy esteem-building activities. In recent years, the company has added Terrace Club, designed for residents with early stages of dementia, and Edna’s Place, for residents in advanced stage of dementia. In 2009, Sunrise created a new position in each community called a “Life Enrichment Manager.” The sole responsibility of these trained professionals is to work with memory care residents and their families to create activities that enrich residents’ lives and keep their cognitive functions active. “Our singular focus is on providing the services that best meet the needs of our residents—a focus that requires continual self-assessment, innovation and training,” said Altman.