Naomi Feil is the founder and director in chief of the Validation Training Institute and a popular speaker in North America and Europe. After graduating with a Masters degree in Social Work from Columbia University in New York, she began working with the elderly. Between 1963 and 1980, she developed Validation – a type of therapy for older people with cognitive impairments and dementia – as a response to her dissatisfaction with traditional methods of working with the severely disoriented old-age people who were her clients.
My Definition Of Success | Earlier in my life I thought success was measured by other people’s approval: articles in the paper and TV interviews. But as I’ve gotten older I realize that being known personally was not a measure of success. When people want to use my work and find that it’s helped them – that’s success for me. When people’s attitudes towards older adults with dementia are changed – that’s success. When disoriented people are treated better and can die in peace – that’s success.
My Key Talent | My acting ability has helped me the most. It’s given me the ability to role play and get into the world of the old person. This ability to empathize is not only with older people but also with participants in my workshops. I can feel what an audience needs and adapt to it. How to replicate this talent? Be aware of your own feelings that get in the way; observe the other person carefully (calibration); then pick up the emotions of the other person.
Characteristics Of Success | Curiosity is an important characteristic, also risk-taking and perseverance. These qualities led me to create something new that went against the current model of care and despite criticism and sabotage, keep going to where I am today.
The Values and Principles I Live By | Honesty and seeing the good in other people.
Critical Skills | I’ve had to deal with a lot of hostility and criticism over the years. Being able to hear the criticism and learn from it was a critical skill that has helped me. I’ve learned from my mistakes and grown as a person.
Lessons I Have Learnt | Learning how to filter criticism was an important lesson. Some criticism was useful and helped me move forward honing Validation and my presentation of it, Some criticism was simply negative and came out of the other person’s need to put me down. This was not constructive criticism but destructive. Learning how to choose what to take in and what to discard was critically important to keep going.
Dealing With Doubt | A deep belief in myself, my inner strength, and my ability to always go on has been my way of coping with self-doubt or fear.
The hardest time for me was early in my career when I was first developing Validation. Everyone used reality orientation and ridiculed what I was doing. I knew I had something good. I didn’t doubt myself but I was afraid that no one would listen. I was afraid that the head nurse, doctors, researchers, government officials and other authorities would overpower my efforts to help older people. Having grown up with disoriented elderly I knew what I did worked. But lots of rejection held me back. It took many years of going on with my work, not confronting the authorities but building my work and spreading the new ideas. That’s where my inner strength really carried me forward.
My Dream | My dream is that universities, governments and agencies accept Validation so that it becomes a mainstream method used with all disoriented very old people. My hope is that Validation is integrated into all nursing homes and hospitals, and used by people caring for the elderly in their own homes – everywhere there are older persons with dementia. One way to make this happen is to strive to have Validation taught to caregivers of elderly, in universities, trade and nursing schools.
My Most Important Influence | I was brought up in a home for the aged. The old people who lived there with me were my teachers. They taught me not only to understand them on a deep level but also empathy. My immigration from Germany to the United States gave me a sensitivity to my surroundings and ability to adapt. Also an ability to deal with rejection and abandonment.
The Legacy I Would Like To Leave | That people everywhere have respect for old people who have dementia and that everyone has the ability to communicate with them.