Anointing of the Sick

Q. Can a person with Alzheimer's disease, who is not in danger of death, receive the Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick?

N.C., Kennewick, Wash.

A. Here is a reply from Father Francis Hoffman, J.C.D.:

Yes, a person with Alzheimer's who is not in danger of death may receive the Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick. It is best not to delay this sacrament so that the elderly person can receive it while still in full, or almost completely full, possession of his or her faculties.

Normally, the fruitful reception of the anointing of the sick is preceded by a good confession, and to make a good confession, a person should be able to remember his sins, express true contrition and have a firm purpose of amendment. If the demented person is largely unaware, frequently incoherent or otherwise non-communicative, and if the anointing of the sick has not yet been administered, it should be administered without delay. In this case, the priest will help the person to express some sign of sorrow in recognition of past sins, in order to help prepare the heart and soul to be open to Jesus Christ and His mercy.