Dementia Heroes: Naomi Feil

Born in Cleveland, Ohio in 1932, Naomi Feil is renowned for her work in developing validation therapy, a method of communicating with and helping disoriented and elderly people.

Feil spent most of her childhood in a care home in Cleveland, where her father was the administrator and her mother the head of the Social Service Department, and began working with the elderly after she graduated with a Masters degree in Social Work from Columbia University in New York.

She developed Validation Therapy as a response to her dissatisfaction with traditional methods of working with the severely disoriented elderly people who were her clients. A practical way of working that helps reduce stress, enhance dignity and increase happiness, Validation focuses on empathy and a holistic view of the individual. Feil’s website explains that: “When one can “step into the shoes” of another human being and “see through their eyes,” one can step into the world of disoriented very old people and understand the meaning of their sometimes bizarre behaviour.”

One key aspect of Validation theory considers the idea that many people living with dementia, and in the final stages of their lives, are actually trying to resolve unfinished issues in order to die in peace. “Their final struggle is important and we, as caregivers, can help them,” says Feil. Validation techniques can help people, even those who are non-verbal, to communicate those important final messages.

Validation Therapy also includes specific techniques for individual and group work, and works to a core set of beliefs which you can find out more about here

You can see Naomi Feil talking about validation therapy in this wonderful video here, and also enjoy a beautiful moment of connection with an elderly lady here.