Boston Globe (December 25, 2010): Keeping Hold of Faith

Publication Date: 
Sat, 12/25/2010

Faith got Bruce Vincent through his first encounter with Alzheimer's disease.

He was in ninth grade, his parents long divorced, and his mother was acting odd. Theresa Vincent would light a cigarette, put it down and light another. Or she would answer the phone, lay down the receiver, and forget someone had called.

Around this time, a friend invited Bruce Vincent to join the Royal Rangers, an Evangelical Christian boys organization. Amid his confusion, the teen found tranquility in the camping trips, camaraderie, and prayer.

That faith is now sustaining Vincent through his second experience with Alzheiemr's - his own. At 48, Vincent is the fourth generation of his family to battle a rare inherited form of the disease that strikes people early, usually in their 40s, and claims life about a decade later.

The role of faith in coping with Alzheimer's disease has received little attention and has not been a significant focus of researchers. But that may be changing.

"It's not really talked about that much because everyone feels uncomfortable, and everyone is trying to be politically correct," said Paul Raia, vice president of clinical services for the Massachusetts and New Hampshire chapter of the Alzheimer's Association.

Raia, who counsels families shortly after they receive an Alzheimer's diagnosis, believes acknowledging and talking about spirituality can help. Yet too often, he said, pastors are missing from these early discussions.