Naomi Feil


Naomi's Story:

This is not about rebirth, this is about a lifetime of struggling to change an inhumane system. I was born in Munich, Germany in 1932 and escaped with my mother and sister to the United States in 1937. My father had become head administrator for the Montefiore Home for the Aged, a nursing home for Jewish elderly in Cleveland Ohio. My mother became the head of social services and we lived in 5 rooms in the home. The old people were our neighbors and become my friends. After finishing my master’s degree in social work at Columbia University I returned to the home where I grew up to work. I found that many of the things I learned at school just didn’t help the people who were then labeled as ‘senile demented’. 

In most nursing homes at that time older adults were treated like children. They were handled like sick people and the generally accepted ‘treatment’ was to get them back to OUR reality. People were tied to their chairs, made to follow schedules that were convenient to nursing staff, punished for ‘unacceptable behavior’ and shut away from society because they no longer fit in or followed societies rules. The older people reacted to this by getting angry (labeled by staff as ‘aggressive’); they withdrew into themselves and stopped communicating.

Over the next 15 years, using trial and error, I developed the Validation method which is a method for building relationships and communicating with very old people who have some forms of dementia. It has not been an easy path. 

In the beginning most people in the medical community made fun of my work. They disparaged the idea of using empathy to connect and build trust with disoriented older people and said that I was crazy to treat these elders with respect and honor. Others said it was dangerous to ‘go into the personal world’ of people who were time confused – that it would make ‘them’ worse. I saw that many doctors hid behind their professional, distant facades and that the elderly responded by either getting angry or becoming silent moving ever inwards. When I wrote my first book in 1982 I was heavily criticized for not being scientific enough. Criticism was a constant companion in those early years and yes, still continues today.

And how does one respond to consistent criticism? I reached out to others who seemed open to new ideas. They saw that what I did was working. Older, withdrawn people started to open up and communicate again. People who were trying to ‘escape’ the nursing homes they lived in were engaging in activities. Once we stopped trying to reality orient them or lie or divert them, really taking their needs and feelings seriously, the older people changed. And most importantly staff members changed.They started enjoying the contact with their residents; they built relationships and the entire atmosphere of the nursing homes started to change.  Cont'd at Right... 


 View Video Below to See the AMAZING transformation!

God's Love: Naomi Feil, a Jewish woman, sings Christian hymns for Gladys, who has Alzheimer's and was unable to speak. Watch what happens at the end, when Mrs. Feil opens her heart and gives Ms. Gladys what she needs so deeply.

Posted by Linda Mouzon on Tuesday, December 24, 2013

After my marriage to Ed Feil, a documentary film producer, we did a number of documentaries on my work and several of these became quite well known winning film prizes. People started paying attention.

In the 70s, I was asked to present Validation at conferences and my workshops began. At first, I was presenting Validation locally then all over the country. In 1989 I received my first invitation to do workshops in Europe. 

Now, 40 years of struggling has led to a shift in the whole field of geriatric care. It is not all my doing. Many others have developed new ideas and new ways of helping older adults with dementia. All of our work together has created a more humane system for the final stage of life. There are now over 20 Validation training centers around the world from Japan to Europe to the United States. There are 380 certified Validation teachers training caregivers and family members. The Validation Training Institute, which I began in the 80s, is now offering internet-supported courses and is developing courses for family members as well as modular learning. We have quality standard and a system for developing the method without losing its integrity.

I am now 83 years old. Some of the struggles I faced as I developed Validation are still with me but now I have teams of people all over the world who work with me and support the continuation of my life’s work. It won’t die when I pass on. It will continue. 

My hope is that all older people, no matter if they are oriented to our reality or in their personal realities, will be treated with respect and honor. That caregivers, whether they are professional or home-care givers, will use empathy to help these older adults to express their feelings and fulfill their needs as they progress through the final stage of life.

Visit Validation Training Institute to Find Out More, Take One of the Workshops Offered or Donate to this Valuable Cause. Also Follow it via Facebook



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