Validation Therapy and Dementia: Pros and Cons

Dementia is a decline in memory and/or intellectual functioning severe enough to interfere with social or occupational functioning. Dementia is not a disease itself, but group of symptoms. It is characterized as a progressive decline in cognitive function due to damage or disease (such as Alzheimer’s) in the brain. Areas particularly affected include: memory, attention, judgment, language and problem solving.

Dementia is condition in which a person loses the ability to think, remember, learn, make decisions and solve problems. Symptoms may also include personality changes and emotional problems. Personality does not change with age in the absence of mental disease.

There are many causes of dementia, including Alzheimer’s disease, brain cancer, and brain injury. Some Parkinson’s patients experience dementia at later stages of disease progression

Enter Validation Therapy

The idea behind validation therapy is to “validate” or accept the values, beliefs and “reality” of the person suffering from dementia. The key is to “agree” with them, but to also use conversation to get them to do something else without them realizing they are actually being redirected. So, if an 87 year old woman says that she needs a phone to call her grandmother, validation therapy says, “OK.” Here is an example for a caregiver working with someone with dementia in an adult day care:

Older adult: “I have to find my car keys.”
Caregiver: “Your car keys…” ( Don’t mention he doesn’t have a car and he hasn’t driven for years)
Older adult: “Yes, I need to go home – lot’s of work to do!”
Caregiver: “You are busy today?” (Don’t mention he is at adult day care and isn’t going home for hours)
Older adult: “Hell, yes! I’m busy every day.”
Caregiver: “You like being busy?” (Trying to find a topic of conversation that they might accept discussing)
Older adult: “Are your kidding? I didn’t say I LIKED it. I just have to work  like the rest of the world.” (He’s getting a little frustrated, but seems to have forgotten about the keys.)
Caregiver: “I know about work. I do some of that myself. In fact, I’m getting ready to fix some lunch for us. Care to join me?”
Older adult: “Lunch, huh? What are you having?”

Why Validation Therapy Works: The Pros

The number one reason why validation therapy works well is because it is not confrontational. Never is a person belittled, yelled at, or told “no.” Remember dementia is a group of symptoms, not a disease. It is easy to misdiagnose. For example, people suffering from UTIs (urinary tract infections) are said to demonstrate characteristics of dementia if the infection goes undetected.

Criticisms of Validation Therapy: The Cons

The biggest criticism of validation therapy is that it promotes lying. These lies weigh heavy on the consciouses of caregivers and family members. For example, validation therapy says that a family member should just accept their aging parent calling them someone else’s name, not correct them. When family stories are switched around, the family is suppose to just listen to the stories as they are told. While there seems to be significant emotional harm to caregivers and family members, very little harm is done to the person with dementia; but isn’t it the well-being of the person with dementia that is most important.

Photo credit: jam343

About the Author: Ryan Malone is the founder of Inside Elder Care and author of the By Families, For Families Guide to Assisted Living. He regularly speaks and advises families about how to improve their aging loved one’s quality of life. Ryan is also the president of SmartBug Media, a content marketing agency that helps companies increase leads, customers and influence. You can read more from Ryan on the SmartBug Media blog or follow him on Twitter.

Review: A Good Vibe From San Clemente Villas By The Sea

I recently had the pleasure to speak at San Clemente Villas by the Sea.  I’ve spoken at many senior communities across four states now, so I was excited to speak in what was essentially my backyard.  I like to share my experiences at each community; many of your are considering senior living communities, and exposure to different places is useful for everyone.

San Clemente Villas by the Sea is a community located in San Clemente, California.  San Clemente is a beach town between Los Angeles and San Diego, and is the last town south before you have 30 miles of beautiful beach views en route to San Diego.

The first thing that struck me when I walked in was the positive energy I got from the community.  So often you walk into a senior living community, and it has a hotel feel. Even though residents are engaged, the front desk often seems like “check-in”, and you really have to get into the community to get a flavor for its personality.  The management offices are separated from the residents and it just feels, well, separate.

With The Villas, it was different.  Owner Aileen Brazeau has done a great job there.  It seems more like a party–music, chatter, people laughing in the sitting areas and a staff that was completely engaged in the residents.  This was a big differentiator for me.  Whereas many communities have staff know their residents and interact with them, the staff at The Villas knew the residents.  They were engaged, joking around and everyone was smiling.  I rarely get such a positive vibe, so I was really looking forward to the tour.

San Clemente Villas by the Sea offers independent living, assisted living and dementia care, all laid out in Hawaian themes.  I spoke to a few residents; they were happy about living there and felt it was a good social outlet for them with good care.  The community itself had modern decor and the rooms were no different.  Since The Villas is located on a hill, many of the rooms have a beautiful view of the Pacific Ocean.

In terms of amenities, they had it all and took the extra step to provide residents some comforts of home.  For example, rather than just a fitness class, they had a pretty nice gym (coming from a gym nut like myself).  Instead of just an activity room for bingo, they had a professional bingo board where the numbers light up.  Instead of just a restaurant with hours for snacks, they had a coffee shop area with snacks. They also had a pool and a jacuzzi, which lent itself to several activity classes not normally senior in senior living communities.

All in all, I was very impressed with the community and the vibe. The owners clearly hire people that were not just qualified, but enjoyed interacting with the residents.  Often that makes the difference between just good care and a good experience!

To learn more about San Clemente Villas by the Sea, visit their website.

Steven Aldrich Advances Brain Fitness at Posit Science

In this Leaders in Elder Care Interview, I spoke with Steven Aldrich of Posit Science.  Posit Science is one of the leaders in what is a growing market for brain fitness and memory care software.  There are many ways to provide memory training, as some of you may know, but I really enjoyed two things from my interviews and several discussions with Steven.  First, Posit Science has gone the extra distance to conduct clinical studies on the use of their software.  This is where the rubber really meets the road in terms of validating marketing claims with real world evidence.

Second, I really appreciated the extension of brain fitness into a lifestyle rather than just a treatment for specific conditions. Research shows that brain fitness is something that should be started sooner rather than later, so was a relief to see the “lifestyle” element incorporated in the way Steven and Posit Science approach the market.

Enjoy the interview!

About Steven Aldrich

Steven Aldrich is president and CEO of Posit Science, joining the company from Intuit where he created significant growth over 13 years in many roles. Most recently he was vice president of Strategy and Innovation of the small business division where he accelerated growth by solving important customer problems through partnerships and acquisitions. He guided the QuickBooks Industry Solutions and QuickBooks Point of Sale teams to several successive years of significant employee engagement increases, customer experience improvements and revenue growth. Steven was president of Quicken Insurance, a business he co-founded and sold to Intuit. He has worked in the investment banking division of Alex. Brown & Sons and for McKinsey & Company.

Steven completed his MBA at the Stanford Graduate School of Business and he holds an AB in Physics from the University of North Carolina. Steven is an avid supporter of the arts, president of the Board of the Bay Area Glass Institute ( and enjoys spending time with his wife Allison and their son, Jackson.

How Steven Describes Posit Science

Founded in 2003 in San Francisco, Posit Science ( helps adults stay vibrant throughout their lives with brain fitness software that engages the brain’s natural plasticity (the brain’s ability to rewire.) Our staff neuroscientists collaborate with a team of more than 50 scientists from leading institutions around the globe to develop and test programs that improve cognitive performance—and enhance quality of life. The company’s products and scientists are currently featured in two PBS documentaries, including “The Brain Fitness Program.”

Posit Science grew out of the pioneering work of renowned neuroscientist Dr. Michael Merzenich. A member of the National Academy of Sciences and Institute of Medicine, and Professor Emeritus at the University of California at San Francisco, Dr. Merzenich has a track record of turning neuroscience into practical tools that benefit consumers. More than 30 published studies show that our 90 patented technologies significantly increase processing speed, improve memory and enhance the quality of everyday life.

All three of Posit Science’s interactive brain fitness software programs are designed to help users think faster, focus better and remember more.  The difference is in how the products train your brain.

The Brain Fitness Program™ is a software program for the auditory system of the brain. Auditory processing is fundamental to brain fitness because much of the important information taken in each day—and that people want to respond to, remember and use later—comes in through what is heard. These skills can help a person remember details of a conversation, find the words on the “tip of their tongue” and keep up with rapid speech.

InSight™ is a software program that sharpens the brain’s visual system, resulting in a person seeing more of what’s around them, reacting to it quicker and remembering it better. These skills are essential to everyday activities, like matching names with faces, keeping track of grandchildren on a busy playground and remembering where the keys are.

DriveSharp™ is a driving-focused product, containing two of the five exercises in Insight.  DriveSharp focuses on the visual areas in the brain that are essential to safe driving and is clinically proven to train the brain to think and react faster on the road.  Improvements in visual processing skills decrease the risk of an accident by 50 percent. DriveSharp is recommended by the AAA Foundation.

To conduct clinical studies, we work with leading researchers at prestigious institutions, including, Cambridge, Harvard, Mayo Clinic, MIT, Stanford, UCSF and USC. We have also established business partnerships with global organizations, including AAA Clubs, AAA Foundation, Alzheimer’s Australia, Allstate, Capital Health, Penn Treaty and QVC.

Contact Information for Posit Science

Posit Science Corporation
225 Bush St., 7FL
San Francisco, CA 94104