Bishop Dennis Sullivan and diocesan clergy brought hope and comfort to individuals with Alzheimer’s Disease and to their families and caregivers, in a Mass at Our Lady of Peace Parish in Williamstown on Nov. 20.
The liturgical celebration was organized by VITALity Catholic Healthcare Services, the healthcare ministry of the Camden Diocese that serves the sick, aging and disabled.
“Bishop Sullivan’s presence, and his words, provided grace and blessings” not only to those suffering from Alzheimer’s or other forms of dementia, but also to their loved ones, and those caring for them, said Deacon Jerry Jablonowski, director of VITALity Catholic Healthcare Services.
Alzheimer’s disease is a progressive, irreversible neurological disorder and the most common form of dementia. Most victims are older than 65, but Alzheimer’s can strike in the 40s or 50s.
Symptoms include gradual memory loss, impairment of judgement, disorientation, personality change, difficulty in learning and loss of language skills. No cure is known.
Alzheimer’s is currently the sixth leading cause of death in the United States, according to the Alzheimer’s Association
Alzheimer’s takes “a devastating toll” on caregivers, the organization states on its website, noting that nearly 60 percent of Alzheimer’s and dementia caregivers rate the emotional stress of caregiving as high or very high, and that about 40 percent suffer from depression.
Last month, the diocese’s Home and Parish Healthcare Services sponsored a Mass for those suffering from cancer, their families, and cancer survivors at Church of the Holy Family in Sewell. These Masses for the sick, Deacon Jablonowski said, are meant to “bring people together, supporting and strengthening one another,” and let attendees know that “the Catholic Church is here to be with you through your struggles.”
The timing of the celebration coincided with National Alzheimer’s Disease and Awareness Month and Family Caregivers Month.