Sympathy for the Symptoms of Dementia

August 13, 2018

Has this ever happened to you?

Chaplain Arlen SolemSo, I had a heck of a time the other night. Just wrapped up for the evening at Emerald Crest, loaded some of my things in my car, and went back inside to double check I had everything. I was missing my cell phone but knew I had it within the last hour and hadn’t gone but in a few places. Checked my desk and the handful of other places it would likely be.  I, of course, had the ringer turned off so calling it didn’t help much.

In my searching and not finding, I began to get more frustrated, looking in unlikely places and rechecking all over. I checked the garbage by my desk, the garbage in the bathroom.  Checked and rechecked my car and computer bag. I asked staff if they had seen it.

I had been searching and searching for close to an hour when I decided to do a very thorough check of my car and everything in it even though I didn’t think it was there because it had to be somewhere. Somehow in the searching of my car, moving the seats, picking up floor mats etc my keys got placed down in the car and the door locks pushed. And so of course, the doors got shut just as I realized all of this.  So now my keys are also locked in my car.

For a moment, breaking the window on the driver’s door did not seem ridiculous. Thankfully, I didn’t do that. I went back inside though just to get away from the temptation of throwing a rock through that window and promptly found my missing phone. It was wedged in a seat, camouflaged nicely in its black case with the screen facing away from view.

I laughed a bit but went back out to my car armed with a coat hanger, knowing this would likely not work. I tried a bit with the coat hanger not even getting close; once again I contemplated smashing a window, thankfully did not and went inside to call my insurance company to have roadside assistance come get my car open for me.

Once that call was placed, I relaxed, laughed a bit at the situation. It was ok. Everything was being taken care of, my phone was found, and my wife and kids were out of town, so no one was waiting for me at home. I went inside and played Bingo with the residents as I awaited my car to be opened.

I write this because I think it is a story that most people can relate to. I also think that these feelings I had are things that people with dementia feel sometimes, maybe often.

People with dementia will often be searching for something they think they should have or just had, whether it be a purse, or keys, or a pair of pants. Only often in their dementia, they like me don’t think they just had it, they know they just had it. 

In my anger and frustration and disbelief, my mind started getting suspicious. Who was working tonight? Which one of them might have stolen my phone? Or maybe a resident had taken it thinking it was theirs and now wouldn’t remember that they had done it. Which resident’s room should I search first?

It is no wonder that people with dementia get suspicious of others at times, accuse people of taking things, or assume that they must have been robbed. 

In my anger and frustration and desperation, it crossed my mind more than once to break the window of my car. In my anger and frustration, even people trying to help me frustrated me.  “Did you check your desk?” Of course, I checked my desk, several times. What kind of question is that?! (Those are thoughts, thankfully, not words)

It is no wonder that people with dementia, sometimes lash out in anger seemingly out of nowhere at times. Or express great frustration at things that seem small.

Are you familiar with the 10 warning signs of dementia? According to the Alzheimer’s Association, these include misplacing items, decreased or poor judgment, changes in mood and more, read the 10 Signs here >

At least for a couple hours last week, I felt like I walked in the shoes of an Emerald Crest resident.

May God grant us all compassion, humility, guidance, peace and wisdom when we care for those we love with dementia.

Reverend Arlen Solem
Chaplain and Campus Pastor

For questions about our spiritual care program, or if you would like spiritual care and support for you or your loved one, contact Chaplain Arlen Solem at 612-554-6379 or

At Emerald Crest, we offer a deep knowledge of memory care in a specialized assisted living setting for seniors with Alzheimer’s and dementia-related conditions. We encourage you to contact us directly with any questions or request a tour. For tours and general information, please contact Christine Drasher at 952-908-2215.

Emerald Crest by Augustana Care provides memory care in a unique environment, specifically designed to support those with cognitive issues. Utilizing this exceptional model of care, individuals with dementia, Alzheimer’s and related conditions can flourish in positive relationships and participation in meaningful activities. Memory care is offered in the Minneapolis – Saint Paul area with communities in four convenient locations: Shakopee, Burnsville, Minnetonka and Victoria, MN.



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The care given at Emerald Crest in Victoria is excellent.  My mother felt safe, content, and very comfortable.  The staff were informative and accommodating as they guided me through questions and information significant to my mother’s care.  The were approachable and responsive.

— Suzan, daughter of Emerald Crest-Victoria resident