About the Author: Debra Davis is the public relations manager at the Masonic Villages of Pennsylvania.

About the Author: Debra Davis is the public relations manager at the Masonic Villages of Pennsylvania.

Imagine asking someone for a glass of water and being told “no,” or that you already have one. For someone with dementia who lives in a long-term care community, hearing “no” after asking to go home – referring to his or her childhood home – is similarly confusing and disappointing.

“Many times our residents are trying to communicate with us, and we don’t have the tools or understanding of what they are trying to convey,” Jan Hendershot, social worker at the Masonic Village at Elizabethtown, said. “When a resident is asking for their mother or to go home, what is the basic need they are looking for? When words are lost, how do we continue to communicate with our residents?”

One way to better discern the needs of someone with dementia is to use the Validation Method. According to developer Naomi Feil, “Validation is a method of communicating with and helping disoriented very old people. It is a practical way of working that helps reduce stress, enhance dignity and increase happiness.”

While in college, after doubting her abilities to work with elders, Jan became familiar with the Validation Method through one of her professors. She has attended several of Naomi’s seminars and trainings throughout her career, and she recently completed three 28-week courses at the Validation Training Institute to become a certified instructor. Jan will lead a Validation Method course for staff at the Masonic Village at Elizabethtown beginning in 2017.

Samantha Boyer, nursing assistant, learned about Validation Training from Jan and completed the Validation Method Associates Course.

“This course helped me to better understand some of my residents with dementia and better care for them,” she said. “Knowing how to talk with them and what questions to ask, I am helping them express themselves and showing I truly care.”

“This has been important to me both professionally and personally as it has affected my sense of job satisfaction and relationship with the residents,” Jan said.

Training in the Validation Method is one of several unique ways Masonic Village staff enhance residents’ lives. The Eden Alternative®, Healing Touch™, music therapy, intergenerational activities, spiritual care and other programs and services address the unique and holistic needs of elders.