Dementia causes confusion, isolation and subsequently frustration, fear and lower self-esteem, affecting both the individual and personal relationships. One of the best approaches is to re-connect loved ones and validate one’s self-worth. The Validation Method is a powerful technique and philosophy coupling empathetic listening with effective questions to help those individuals express their concerns and emotions. This builds trust, reduces anxiety and restores dignity. Here are a few helpful Validation tips when engaging with your loved one:
- Relax, slow your pace and set aside your own thoughts and expectations.
- Focus on your loved one: look into his or her eyes, take note of the emotion and step into his or her world. There are times to be a cheerleader—this is not one of them.
- Approach him or her from the front, maintaining eye contact at or below eye level and using his or her name. This establishes a connection and shows respect and empathy.
- Ask open-ended, broad questions to understand and explore your loved one’s concerns.
- Begin with Who, What, Where, When and How while listening for the emotions behind the words shared and body language used. Avoid asking Why as it requires a reasonable, logical explanation and likely will frustrate or even offend him or her.
- Paraphrase what was shared with the same emotion to demonstrate you are listening and understand. Even if tempted, do not offer advice or instructions. Rather, ask your loved one what he or she thinks should be done. This helps promote self-worth and boost self-esteem.
- Accept what is shared without judgment, even if troublesome. Re-focus on what your loved one may be feeling or struggling to express. Remember: this may not be reality, but it’s his or her perception now.
- Use welcomed closeness and a nurturing touch, taking your loved one’s lead as to what is comfortable. Physical connections can relax barriers.
- Bring your visit to a definitive end. Always thank him or her and state when you will return. This builds trusting, meaningful relationships. While your loved one may not fully understand you cognitively, he or she connects with you emotionally.