Naomi Feil was just 8 years old when she moved into what was then known as a nursing home, where her parents worked. Living there until leaving for college, she learned first-hand, through trial and error, how to comfort and communicate with older people.

When she died at age 91 on Dec. 24 at her home in Jasper, Oregon, she had devoted her entire career to finding ways to comfort disoriented elderly people and their caregivers.

Her daughter Vicki de Klerk-Rubin said she died of cancer.

Ms. Feil was a 24-year-old social worker accepting a group of patients diagnosed as “senile psychotics” when a psychologist at the Montefiore Home for the Aged in Cleveland laid the groundwork for what would become the method she called validation therapy.

“He taught us that when feelings are “validated,” they are relieved. » Ms. Feil explained on the website of his association Validation Training Institute in Pleasant Hill, Oregon. “ “You validate your residents, help them release their pain. » When social work students asked me what I did, I said, “Validating.” This is how a new way of communicating was formed.

His method calls on caregivers to empathize with disoriented people in an effort to reduce their stress and preserve their dignity, rather than trying to impose reality on them.

“If you validate someone, you accept them where they are and where they are not,” Ms. Feil (pronounced “feel”) often said. “If you accept them, then they can accept themselves.”

While refining her methods, in 1982 she founded the Validation Training Institute, a non-profit organization. She managed it until 2014, when Mrs de Klerk-Rubin, her daughter, succeeded her.

“She was a pioneer in this area of ​​person-centered dementia care,” Sam Fazio, senior director of quality care and psychosocial research at the Alzheimer’s Association, said in a telephone interview. “The key to connecting with someone with a cognitive disability is meeting them in their reality instead of expecting them to meet us in ours. »

His theory, like a related theory called therapeutic deception, has not been without critics. The main objection is that it condom lies. The British Alzheimer’s Society said that “we struggle to understand how systematically deceiving a person with dementia can be part of a genuine trusting relationship.” Others argue that lying, or accepting a patient’s delusion as reality, is justified when it is in the patient’s best interest.

There is still no consensus.

According to the Validation Training Institute, more than 9,000 people in 14 countries have been trained to communicate with people suffering from cognitive decline, including dementia, by expressing empathy.

Ms. Feil has written two books: “Validation: The Feil Method, How to Help the Disoriented Old-Old” (1982) and “The Validation Breakthrough” (1993). She collaborated on a later edition of “The Validation Breakthrough” with Ms. de Klerk-Rubin.

She and her husband, Edward R. Feil, a professional filmmaker, collaborated on a number of documentaries, including “The Inner World of Aphasia” (1968), which was placed on the National Film Preservation Board’s Film Registry. United in 2015.

Gisela Noemi Weil was born on July 22, 1932 in Munich to Jewish parents. By the time he was 5, his family had fled Nazi Germany for the United States, where his father, Julius Weil, became director of the Montefiore Home for the Aged in Cleveland, and his mother, Helen (Kahn) Weil , ran the house. department of social services.

After studying at Oberlin College in Oberlin, Ohio, and Western Reserve University (now Case Western Reserve University) in Cleveland, and after receiving her master’s degree from the Columbia University School of Social Work in New York in 1956, she married Warren J. Rubin. Their marriage ended in divorce.

She then moved to Cleveland and returned to the Montefiore Home, this time as a professional staff member. She married Mr. Feil in 1963; he died in 2021.

Besides Mrs. de Klerk-Rubin, her daughter from her first marriage, Mrs. Feil is survived by another daughter from that marriage, Beth Rubin; two sons from his second marriage, Edward G. Feil and Kenneth Jonathan Feil; six grandchildren; and a great-granddaughter.

She and Mr. Feil moved from Ohio to Eugene, Oregon, in 2015 to live on their son Edward’s farm, where Mr. Feil, who was suffering from cognitive decline, received full-time home nursing care, piano lessons, painting lessons and validation therapy.

In the early 1960s, when she began working with disoriented people over the age of 80, Feil realized that helping them cope with reality was an unrealistic goal, one that frustrated both the caregiver and the patient. ‘invalid.

“Each person was trapped in a world of their own fantasy,” she wrote in her first book.

“I learned validation from the people I worked with,” she added. “I learned that they have the wisdom to survive by returning to the past. »

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