What is Validation Therapy?

E. Reeder

Validation therapy is a method used for managing clients or family members who have Alzheimer's disease or some other severe type of dementia. When assisting mentally incompetent people who do not have the mental facilities to understand reality, the job of people working with them is to help them retain what sanity they have left, even if that means agreeing with their alternate version of reality. Using validation therapy can help these patients live more comfortable lives. It may also be used to help patients with schizophrenic disorders or other psychotic disorders.

Validation therapy is a method used for managing family members who have Alzheimer's disease.
Validation therapy is a method used for managing family members who have Alzheimer's disease.

When helping people who are of sound mind, the job of therapists and others dealing with them is to help them figure out what is causing their problems by having them to dig deeper in their minds. This doesn't work with patients with dementia or other cognitive impairments, who have trouble distinguishing things such as time, location, or their present reality. Arguing with a person with severe memory loss about reality only serves to upset them.

It used to be a common practice for therapists and caretakers of elderly people with dementia to correct them. In other words, if the patient insisted that today was Thursday, but it was, in fact, Sunday, the caretaker would remind them that it was actually Sunday. Over time, repeatedly denying a patient's reality can cause emotional damage since she often no longer has the coping skills to comprehend the conditions in her present life. Some people with dementia find it more comfortable to live in the past than to face their current situation that is compounded by memory loss.

Employing validation therapy with a patient or family member can help ease the person's distress. The caretaker would not argue with the client over the day of the week. Instead, he or she might ask the client what she has going on today or what Thursdays are usually like.

Another aspect of validation therapy is redirecting the afflicted person. For example, the client may insist on leaving and driving to work, even though she has no driver's license or job. Instead of informing her of this reality, the caregiver may redirect her by offering to cook her breakfast first or by engaging her in another activity. In this way, the patient's dignity is maintained and her interests are redirected in a healthy and more realistic manner.

As the name implies, the caretaker is validating the reality of the afflicted person, as well as his or her cares and concerns. Validation therapy is an excellent way to help the patient or family member feel comfortable. It helps maintain dignity and self-esteem and increases the trust that is necessary to grow or maintain a close relationship between patient and caregiver.

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