Should you correct your forgetful mom with Alzheimer’s OR “validate” her reality? It’s the burning question.
According to the Australian site FightDementia.org, “Validation Therapy advocates that, rather than trying to bring the person with dementia back to our reality, it is more positive to enter their reality.”
In this way empathy is developed with the person, building trust and a sense of security. This in turn reduces anxiety.
Many families and carers report increased benefits for themselves, as well as for the person with dementia, from a reduced number of conflicts and a less stressful environment.
Validation Therapy is based on the idea that once the person has experienced severe short term memory loss and can no longer employ intellectual thinking or make sense of the present, he or she is likely to go back to the past.
Some family members and carers express concern that validation involves lying.
This may be in order to resolve unfinished conflicts, relive past experiences or to retreat from the present over which they have little control. Some people will go in and out of the present.
Some family members and carers express concern that validation involves lying to the person with dementia about reality. However a more accurate description is that it avoids challenging their reality.
For instance, if a person with dementia believes that she is waiting for her children, all now middle aged, to return from school, family members and carers who use validation would not argue the point or expect their relative to have insight into their behaviour. They would not correct their beliefs.
Rather, the validating approach proposes acknowledging and empathising with the feelings behind the behaviour being expressed. In this way the person’s dignity and self-esteem is maintained.