Reverend Arlen Solem, Chaplain and Campus Pastor
Emerald Crest Memory Care (Cassia): Burnsville, Minnetonka, Shakopee, Victoria
Senior Living: A Layover Between Hospice and Hospital Chaplaincy
After years of working in hospice in Milwaukee, Arlen found his way to the Twin Cities in the fall of 2016. He was planning on a career position in a hospital. With more competition than expected however, he managed by working three part time jobs. Two were hospitals and then a skilled nursing facility.
By spring of 2018 when Cassia’s full time Chaplaincy became available at Emerald Crest Arlen applied. Albeit only as a transition until full time hospital work came around again. Not long after starting he began to realize, or remember, who was really driving his bus. “God was clearly calling me and directing my path, though it wasn’t immediately apparent”. But it didn’t take long to discover that this particular assignment serving one community across four locations was a great fit.
Dignity Over Dementia
“I accepted the Emerald Crest position not feeling very sure about the fit. Then it turned into a happy surprise” Arlen explained. The balance between ongoing relationships, the variety of traveling to multiple campuses and periodic introduction of new residents struck the perfect note.
With Cassia’s Chaplain tradition and its focus on what “is there” in the person with dementia rather than what is missing he found it uplifting. That combined with relationship development and being the communication bridge with family proved very fulfilling. Arlen said, “Calls from him, unlike other staff phone calls, typically meant good things”. He gets regular thank you’s from family members appreciating the patience he offers and comfort he brings residents.
All in a Week’s Work
It is a busy business being a Chaplain. Each of the four Emerald Crest communities is visited once per week. And each visit entails greeting residents followed by a service and one-to-one visits with as many residents as time allows.
The services are very routine with pretty much the same hymns every week. But routine in this environment provides comfort more than it inflicts boredom. Most residents attend most of the time. And the weekly intervals keep the interactions fresh and uplifting. These services are always posted with video for families to view.
Relationships Built by Listening and Learning
As Arlen connects individually, he’s found room as a listener of favorite stories from residents. Among several examples, one woman loves sharing stories of her and her father from her childhood. For instance, her driving her father’s ice truck at the age of 12. Then there is the Muslim woman who is very well versed in faith. She always makes a point to connect with Arlen every week through services.
Arlen’s learned the careful ways that grant elusive access to the aliveness otherwise shrouded by the veils of dementia. “Folks with dementia by and large are very resilient! They are less fearful of the disease than their family members.” Arlen said. “Physical proximity, carefully pacing of give and take, and comforting touch are all necessary and effective means to achieving meaningful exchanges with residents,” he added.
Last, but not least, Arlen is nearly fluent in Spanish. He regularly engages with a few Spanish speakers, both residents and staff during his visits.
“Arlen is a great asset to our residents, staff, and families. He leads worship services that are meaningful in each stage of dementia. He also supports families with comfort and works closely with staff ensuring every resident need is met. He makes an impact on everyone he interacts with. We are so blessed to have him as our chaplain.” Elizabeth Wendel, Admissions Manager, Cassia