So, now that we’ve discovered what validation is and the principles behind it, the question is: “How do we do it?”
To validate someone is to show that what s/he is saying and feeling has meaning and deserves to be heard, understood, and accepted.
Techniques in validation include:
1. Centering – you must first let go of your own concerns and needs in order to be open to communication from others
2. Using “Who, What, When, Where, How” questions to explore further, staying away from “Why” – they don’t know why and this will just frustrate them
3. Rephrasing – use their statements back to them by rephrasing the statements in order to get more information – sometimes, doing this in the form of a question is helpful
4. Using their preferred sense – if they are visual, you use sight words; auditory, use hearing words; kinesthetic, use feeling words
5. Using polarity – asking the extremes like “what is the best thing” or “what is the worst thing” about a situation can give you good insights
6. Asking the opposites – asking the person to imagine the opposite can sometimes be helpful
7. Reminiscing – “Has there ever been a time when xyz happened before” can give you insights in possible past issues that have not been resolved or can give an example of how s/he dealt with something like this in the past
8. Using ambiguity – if a demented person uses ambiguous phrases or talks about ambiguous people, go with the ambiguity by using the same he/she/it phrases used and don’t try to guess who they are talking about
9. Using eye contact – don’t use direct eye contact with someone who is angry or feels they are being verbally invaded; definitely use eye contact with individuals who are more confused, sad, and withdrawn
10. Using empathy – not sympathy, don’t say you’re sorry because that doesn’t mean much; statements like “That’s rough” or “It must be frustrating when…” are very helpful; I call it “Name that Emotion”
11. Matching and mirroring emotions and actions – doing so helps you connect with what they are doing and potentially why
12. Using touch – all human beings need physical touch, whether it’s a hug, a kiss on the cheek, holding a hand, a hand on the shoulder, etc; do not, however, touch an angry individual
13. Using music when appropriate – music is stored throughout the brain and because of this, it can be accessed at any time in the dementia disease process; music is a very powerful tool
The important thing about validation is that we are picking up on nonverbal communication and emotions – you cannot take what the demented individual is saying at face value. In fact, validation is really about trying to get underneath what is being said to the true need that the individual is trying to communicate.
The following conversation using validation with a 78 year old demented male Assisted Living resident is an example of this:
Resident: When are you going to help me get my money back?
Me: (Rephrasing) You need me to help get your money?
Resident: Yes, she has it and I need it back.
Me: (Ambiguity) She does have it, doesn’t she?
Resident: Yes, you need to tell my daughter to bring me my money.
Me: (Empathy) Your daughter has your money and that is obviously frustrating you.
Resident: It’s very frustrating…no…it’s making me mad.
Me: (Polarity) What’s the worst thing about your daughter having your money?
Resident: I can’t pay the doctor.
Me: (Using the W questions) What do you need to see the doctor for?
Resident: (grabbing his stomach) So he can give me something to stop this from hurting!
Me: (Empathy) That’s horrible that you are hurting so badly. Let’s go find the nurse and see if she has some medications from the doctor for this.
Resident: I knew I came to the right person.
As you can see in this example, the resident came to me angry at his daughter for taking his money, but the real concern was that he was in pain, and I never would have gotten to the bottom of that without using validation.