Archive for September, 2011

Celebrate the Joy of Living

At Volunteers of America, we serve people in need at all stages of their lives, from the very young to the very old. It’s that continuum of care that distinguishes us from other human service organizations.

Through our Aging with Options™ initiative, we recognize that aging is, for many, a complex and fearful unknown. We want to help older Americans celebrate the joy of living by creating a sustained, trusted relationship with support systems that allow them to age at home — wherever that may be. In fact, no matter what stage of aging, no matter what state of health, we can offer the right support at the right time because we have the expertise to coordinate all the care and support necessary to meet each individual’s needs, helping people maintain independence and self-sufficiency.

Some of our oldest clients face an especially daunting combination of challenges — limited financial resources paired with age-related health problems and memory loss resulting from Alzheimer’s or similar conditions. It is those patients suffering from the disorienting effects of dementia, who often struggle to simply tell others what their needs are, that pose some of the greatest challenges to us as care providers.

One way to serve these clients which shows great promise is the validation technique, developed by elder care innovator Naomi Feil. Validation is a method of communicating with very old people who, because of Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia, have become disoriented and withdrawn inside themselves. Their thinking may be connected more to the past than the present, and they may have trouble communicating with others in ways that on the surface make sense.

The validation technique, which Volunteers of Americas has started to integrate into our nursing facilities, aims to communicate with clients with Alzheimer’s-type dementia on their level and accept them for who they are at this stage of their lives. It acknowledges that a fully-formed person lives within someone who, on the surface, seems confused or withdrawn. We accept that the unexpected and sometimes erratic behaviors of those with dementia can be a response to an unresolved conflict or painful memory from earlier in life. Rather than simply responding to the immediate behavior, “validation” digs under the shell created by dementia and speaks directly to the person underneath.

It’s important to continue to learn more about the challenges faced by those with Alzheimer’s-type dementia and the innovations used to address those challenges. September is World Alzheimer’s Month, which presents a great opportunity to educate yourself on this growing challenge.

In addition to helping our elderly patients who may suffer from dementia, we are also proud to offer at some of our health care facilities It’s Never 2 Late (IN2L) customized computer systems with therapeutic and entertainment content and adapted hardware that empower individuals to connect, engage and enjoy life through the benefits of today’s technology. The technology combines cognitive activity, interpersonal engagement, technical skill building and, most importantly, fun for seniors who may have never have used a computer or sent emails before.

As we continue to provide vital programs and services for older Americans and other needy individuals and families through our local offices and health care facilities, we invite you to join us. Together we can continue to provide care for those who need it the most.

– By Mike King, National President and CEO, Volunteers of America

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