Sacraments with Persons with Disabilities

In Paul Turner's Blog by Paul Turner

Q: I have a parishioner with Alzheimer’s. I doubt from his behavior that he can distinguish between the host and regular food. But his wife is insistent that he receive it. Communion ministers and I have experienced him resisting receiving the Host.

I found this on the USCCB site:

26. When baptized Catholics who have been regular communicants develop advanced Alzheimer’s or other age-related dementias, there is to be a presumption in favor of the individual’s ability to distinguish between Holy Communion and regular food. Holy Communion should continue to be offered as long as possible, and ministers are called to carry out their ministry with a special patience. If swallowing becomes particularly difficult, decisions regarding the continued reception of Holy Communion may have to be faced. This pastoral decision is to be made on a case-by-case basis, in consultation with the individual, those closest to him or her, physicians, and the pastor.

The parishioner does not want to receive it on many occasions and his wife takes the host and forces it in his mouth. It seems obvious to me that he doesn’t know what he’s doing.

The wife seems pretty angry about my questioning his reception. Help!


A: I think the wife is the best judge here. She must be undergoing great stress, losing her husband in many ways. I would do all I could to support her in her time of trial.

The quote you found is from an excellent source, Guidelines for the Celebration of the Sacraments with Persons with Disabilities: