Simple things you can do to maintain good communication and a loving relationship.
This article was written by a guest contributor, and the views, thoughts and opinions expressed in this article belong solely to the author.
What is Validation?
Validation is a method for connecting and communicating with older adults living with cognitive decline. Developed by Naomi Feil in the 1970s and updated to reflect current research and years of practical experience, Validation is the original ‘person-centred’ method of communication.
“Stop mumbling! I can’t understand what you’re saying.”
“I’m not mumbling! You are getting deaf.”
I heard this conversation so often between my children and my father. His hearing was getting worse, and it would be a number of years before he actually acknowledged it and got hearing aids.
The other day, I fell going down the stairs because my right hip simply doesn’t carry me sometimes. How can I integrate that physical loss into my identity?
These are just two examples of losses that often occur as we get older. And this process of acceptance is difficult for both the older adult and their children (and grandchildren).
From the perspective of adult children, the struggle sometimes comes with accepting that mom (or dad or grandpa) isn’t the way she was. She is changing and sometimes change is scary. It can feel like a loss.
The independent person is becoming, shall we say, less independent, less able to carry on as before. And we know that as she ages even more, she will become less and less able to do all the things she used to do or must do them differently. That is not only true of physically oriented activities like walking, shopping, taking care of one’s hygiene, reading and driving a car, but also mental activities like planning, remembering things and concentrating on a project.
Questions arise: “Will I have to care for my parent? Can I handle that? Is that burden too great? Is this Alzheimer’s? Will I develop a form of dementia?”
Photo courtesy of Canva.
There are so many negative connotations associated with aging. It is often said that our society is youth-focused and prizes productivity, usually in the form of making money. The gifts that come with aging are often forgotten or under-valued.
I’d like you to consider embracing aging as a complex process that has both positive and negative aspects. At 66 years old, I am far more compromising than I was when I was younger. More experience in handling difficult situations lends more equanimity. I am more able to see things in a larger perspective. I have good stories to tell. These are just some of the positive aspects of getting older which should be valued.
Consider this: if you find yourself irritated or annoyed at a parent or grandparent because they can no longer do what they used to do (hear, see, walk, run or pick up something dropped on the floor), know that this is part of the aging process. We are all getting older. That stops when we die.
"Consider accepting these losses as a way of expressing love for your parent and acknowledging the nature of life."
– Vicki de Klerk-Rubin, Executive Director, Validation Training Institute
Consider accepting these losses as a way of expressing love for your parent and acknowledging the nature of life. That is step one.
Step two: make a choice to deal with that loss within yourself. Okay, my mom has trouble with mobility. This may have all sorts of triggers about your own aging or fear of losing your parent. If those triggers are there, recognize them. They are yours.
Step three: choose to maintain a loving relationship. This does not mean only being nice or happy or ignoring the losses. It means adapting your way of communicating so that the relationship can continue.
Photo courtesy of Canva.
How do you do that?
Here are some simple things you can do to maintain good communication and a loving relationship:
When you choose to, center yourself by recognizing the feelings and thoughts going on in your mind and put those aside for five minutes.
Always get in front of your parent. Never speak to them from the back or without first getting eye contact.
Get on eye-level. Don’t look down on them.
Be aware of your voice tone. Speak to them with a respectful voice tone.
Don’t stand too close or too far away. Find a distance that feels most comfortable to them.
These few techniques can make a huge difference in how you communicate with another person. Integrating these simple tools takes coaching. Consider taking a course on basic Validation skills or learn more by watching Validation videos (find links below in Get More Information section).
VTI, founded in 1982 by Naomi Feil, is a not-for-profit organization that advances knowledge, values, education and research rooted in the Validation Method. Its ultimate objective is to nurture respect, dignity and well-being in the lives of older adults experiencing age related cognitive decline and their caregivers.
Twenty-four Authorized Validation Organizations (AVOs) in 14 countries offer certification courses in the Validation method.