Jul 8, 2014

First Purple Mass, for those dealing with dementia, to be held July 12




Story and photos by Julie Beaulieu

SPRINGFIELD – To offer spiritual support to those suffering from Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia, along with their loved ones and caregivers, the first Purple Mass will be held at St. Michael’s Cathedral, 254 State St., here, on Saturday, July 12 at 4 p.m.

St. Michael’s Cathedral parishioner Joy Danita Allen, whose mother suffers from the disease, organized the Purple Mass along with the other Ladies of St. Peter Claver Auxiliary.

“I suggested we do a Purple Mass, because there was a Pink Mass already (for cancer survivors), there was a Blue Mass for police officers, the Red Mass for attorneys,” said Allen. “So, I said, ‘Why not have a Purple Mass for those with dementia?’”

Many people suffer from a form of dementia, the most common being Alzheimer’s, and, in addition, many more are caregivers to loved ones suffering from this type of brain disease. Few know about other families’ struggles with the disease, Allan said, because dementia still has a social stigma attached to it.

“I do believe people still keep it quiet. I believe people still are not educated that it is dementia,” she said. “For those who have it, it is a very difficult piece of information to share with others. So, unless someone freely discusses it, it’s usually not talked about.

“Raising awareness and acknowledging the disease, we hope, will prompt people to get help and support. Also, (we want to help people) to learn different ways that healthy lifestyles can change one’s odds of getting dementia,” said Allen.

Ramona Williams, chaplain at Mount St. Vincent Care Center in Holyoke, says there are some early warning signs.

“It starts off with some cognitive loss… to not be able to do the things that they used to do, for example, and it does include memory loss, short term memory loss, but there's more to it than just the short term memory loss,” Williams explained. “One of the things that I always say to people is that you never really know for sure until you go to a neurologist, a psychologist, or to a psychiatric physician, to really go through all of the tests that you need to go through because it's important to really differentiate what is happening with your loved one.”

Faith is another bond patients and loved ones can share, added Williams.

“I started a little prayer group (with patients). In fact, I had some music. I put some hymns on, and when the hymns came on, especially, they just lit up,” Williams said. “If you start singing those songs again, those memories are still there, and that part of it is not affected by Alzheimer's, and that emotional happiness is not affected by Alzheimer’s, and that's a good thing.

“So, faith really helps them to still feel connected with you,” she said.

Donald is a caregiver whose wife has been a resident at Mount St. Vincent Care Center for several years. When times get tough, he says that he talks to God.

“On Sundays, I come earlier (to visit) so we can go to Mass together,” he told iobserve. “Faith is, of course, extremely important in these things.”

People of all faiths are invited to attend the July 12 Purple Mass. Allen suggests that those attending wear something purple to show support for those dealing with Alzheimer’s and dementia.

The Purple Mass is a diocesan-wide service. For more information, call the cathedral parish at 413-781-3656, or email Joy Danita Allen at [email protected].