Validation Training Institute vows to continue her legacy with the same energy and passion she demonstrated over 60 years.
The Validation Training Institute’s global community of practitioners is mourning the loss of founder Naomi Feil. The world-renowned gerontologist died in her home in Jasper, Oregon at the age of 91. A recognized expert in the field of dementia globally, the Wall Street Journal featured a profile on Naomi after her passing. On January 13th, Sunday TODAY with Willie Geist (NBC) featured a story about Naomi in an installment of a segment of “A Life Well Lived.”
In November 2023, she relayed to the worldwide network of validation therapy practitioners that she was losing her battle with metastatic cancer. A video featured on the Naomi in Memory page on the Validation website has Naomi expressing “I will have died knowing that the Validation community will continue in my footsteps with my energy and spirit.”
“My life work has turned into making sure her legacy continues,” her daughter Vicki de Klerk —Executive Director of VTI—told SeniorTrade from her home in the Netherlands. The legacy Feil leaves behind is vast. VTI has a network of 8,214 Validation certified workers, 860 group leaders, 449 teachers and 17 master teachers, around the globe. There are 24 Authorized Validation Organizations (AVOs) in 14 countries across Europe, Asia and North America.
The core of the nonprofit organization is training professionals in VTI’s revolutionary holistic method that focuses on empathy for persons with cognitive impairment and dementia. Practitioners develop person-centered skills, learn to observe, take a breath and move into the person’s reality. Validation techniques encourage communication even with people who gave up speaking. VTI’s mission is to nurture respect, dignity and well-being in the lives of older adults living with Alzheimer’s Disease and related dementias (ADRD) and their caregivers, rather than marginalized or dismissed.
The Formative Years
Feil was born in Munich, Germany, on July 22, 1932, and immigrated to the United States in July 1937, growing up first in New York City and then, from age 8 on, in Cleveland at the Montefiore Home for the Aged where her parents worked. Her mother was the head of the Social Service Department and her father was the administrator.
After a period of early adulthood in New York City, acting and studying theater at New York's Herbert Berghof Studio, Feil resumed her lifelong calling, acquiring a Master’s degree in Social Work from Columbia University and returning to Cleveland to work in the home she grew up into at Montefiore, incorporating her natural flair for improvisation and theatrical skills into her many decades of teaching and training here and abroad, which she was still doing after moving to Oregon in 2015.
As a social worker in nursing homes, she sought to enter residents’ realities and affirm their emotions. Validation was a maverick concept back in the 1970s when Feil first proposed that caregivers ‘step into the world of the disoriented old-old’ and stop using reality orientation, diversion or lying. Her books, and workshops spread her messages: understand that there is a reason behind the behavior of disoriented older adults and use empathy to accompany them in their final stage of life. Her work inspired a new generation to work “person-centered.”
The Endowment Fund
The Validation Training Institute has planned for its long-term financial strength by creating an Endowment Fund. This is a permanent and separate fund that provides an annual cash flow to support general administrative costs of VTI. It is a hallmark of financial sustainability and good stewardship. In 2019 this fund was started by a one-million-dollar commitment over 6 years.
If you wish to honor Naomi Feil with a contribution that will continue her legacy into the future, please consider donating to the Endowment Fund in her memory. Give a gift now with a one-time direct donation in memory of Naomi.
When you make a bequest to the Validation Training Institute, you support an endowed fund that lasts in perpetuity.