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Validation | Embracing Consciousness And Compassion

As an Authorized Validation Organization, Meridian Senior Living finds value in sharing with caregivers beneficial articles from the Validation Training Institute

Published on April 16, 2024 by The Validation Training Institute

As a member of the Validation Training Institute (VTI) Board, a mindfulness teacher, and an individual engaged in both the physical and mental aspects of aging, I find myself standing at the intersection of profound personal and professional insights. The journey of aging is not just a physical one characterized by the inevitable changes in stamina, muscle mass, and the appearance of wrinkles. At 52, these signs of aging are tangible reminders of the body’s natural progression. However, there is another aspect of aging that often lurks in the background, unnoticed until it forcefully demands attention—cognitive decline.

My connection to cognitive decline is both distant and intimate. While my own thoughts rarely wander to fears of disorientation or loss of mental acuity, the shadow of Alzheimer’s disease looms large in my family history. My mother’s aunt’s extreme cognitive decline serves as a stark reminder of the potential futures many of us may face. My mother’s fear of following in her aunt’s footsteps is a constant presence in her life, yet I find myself pondering—what if I do experience significant cognitive decline myself? Which parts of my consciousness will fade, becoming inaccessible to both me and those around me? How would I wish to be treated by my caregivers in such a scenario?

It is here that the Validation Method, developed by Naomi Feil, becomes not just a professional tool but a beacon of hope. Validation is a way of communicating with and understanding individuals experiencing cognitive decline. It emphasizes empathy, respect, and the dignity of the person, regardless of their cognitive state. This approach aligns closely with my values as a mindfulness teacher and my understanding of the human consciousness as explored in Jack Kornfield’s “The Wise Heart: A Guide to the Universal Teachings of Buddhist Psychology.”

Kornfield’s exploration of consciousness in Buddhist psychology offers profound insights into the nature of our minds and beings. Consciousness, as described, is clear, timeless, and untouched by the transient thoughts and attachments that flit through our minds. This understanding underscores the importance of touch and eye contact, especially when speech and hearing may no longer serve as reliable bridges of connection. In the context of cognitive decline, these forms of non-verbal communication resonate with the core of our being, reaching the part of us that remains aware and responsive.

The essence of mindfulness—being fully present and compassionate with what is—parallels the Validation Method’s approach. Both practices honor the individual’s experience and the fundamental integrity of their consciousness. As a mindfulness teacher, my journey into Buddhist psychology deepens my appreciation for the nuanced ways in which we can connect with and support individuals experiencing cognitive decline. It reminds me that beneath the challenges of communication and memory, there exists a profound human awareness deserving of dignity and love.

In contemplating my own aging and potential future with cognitive decline, I am comforted by the knowledge and practice of Validation and mindfulness. These approaches not only provide a framework for compassionate caregiving but also remind us of the resilience and depth of the human spirit. They teach us that even as certain faculties may diminish, the essence of who we are—a consciousness that is clear, expansive, and fundamentally unblemished—remains.

Incorporating the Validation Method with the insights of Buddhist psychology, we can create a caregiving environment that respects and honors the fullness of the individual. As we navigate the complexities of aging, both as caregivers and as individuals facing our own journeys, let us do so with the wisdom, compassion, and mindfulness that every person deserves.

Through the exploration of these interconnected paths, we are invited to view aging and cognitive decline not as fearsome unknowns but as opportunities for deepening our practice of empathy and understanding. As we look forward to the years ahead, may we embrace the aging process with grace, supporting ourselves and others with the dignity and respect inherent in the Validation Method and the teachings of mindfulness and Buddhist psychology.

Published by Mariska Praktiek





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