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The COVID-19 pandemic is challenging for everyone, but it can be especially disruptive for seniors with dementia, who may be accustomed to routines, communicate in non-traditional ways, and face other challenges that are heightened during this unusual time.
At Sunrise, the care we deliver to our Reminiscence residents is centered in the principles of the Validation Method, an empathetic communication technique founded by Naomi Feil. Validation enables us to put ourselves in the shoes of the person with memory loss and join their journey or their personal reality.
“When we use Validation, we meet the person where they are instead of expecting them to be where we are. We use empathy and step into their world, mirroring their emotions and asking open-ended questions to help them express what they are feeling,” says Rita Altman, senior vice president of Memory Care & Program Services for Sunrise Senior Living. “For the senior, just knowing that they are being accepted and heard, and having the opportunity to express those feelings to an empathetic caregiver, can bring tremendous relief.”
During COVID-19, an added complication of caring for seniors with dementia is that wearing masks can make it harder for us to communicate through facial expressions. Most experts agree that 70–93 percent of communication is nonverbal. It’s therefore even more important that we pay closer attention to our body language. Here are some nonverbal communication tips that Sunrise team members are using, and that can be helpful for all caregivers of people with dementia, especially during the pandemic.
Here are a few other general tips to keep in mind:
The Validation Training Institute has several videos that may be helpful during this time. See links to three below:
For more information on Sunrise’s response to COVID-19, visit our We Are Prepared page.