Q. 1. How does the Catholic Church administer the Last Rites (Sacrament of the Sick) to patients of Alzheimer's Disease (AD) when they have lost their memories.
A. 1. First of all, for those who are not family with Alzheimer's disease, I wish to give a brief on the matter. Alzheimer's disease (AD) is the most common form of dementia. Dementia (from the Latin word "madness" and "mind") is a deterioration of the intellectual faculties, such as the memory, concentration, and judgment, such resulting from an organic disease or a disorder of the brain. Sometimes, it is accompanied by emotional disturbance and personality changes.
When the person has reached the stage of total memory loss, he/she is no longer able to participate in the Sacrament of Confession.
Proper pastoral care of Alzheimer's patients dictates that while they can still receive the Sacrament of Confession, they should be encouraged to do so, over and above continuing to attend Sunday Mass and receiving Holy Communion on a regular basis.
Once the patient is confined to a bed or becomes incoherent or incommunicative, unless the patient ask for it, the Sacrament of Communion should not be brought to him/her. Nor is there a need to confess unless the patient request it.
As the end approaches, the priest should be contacted so he may come and give absolution, viaticum, and the apostolic pardon.
Please, call the priest for the last Rites while the patient is still alive. Do the wait until the last minute - such being too late.