Many people still live with the impression that this Sacrament is only for the dying and mistakenly refer to it as Last Rites.
However, the Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick is not about those who are dying. It is about those who are seriously ill, those who are battling ongoing or chronic illness -- whether in terms of physical or mental health, and those who are embracing the eventually seriously debilitating effects of aging. Hence, there is no need to wait until a person is at the point of death to approach the Sacrament.
The Sacrament may be repeated if the sick person recovers after the anointing but becomes ill once again, or if, during the same illness, the person's condition becomes more serious. A person can well also be anointed before surgery when an illness requires some substantial form of medical intervention. There is no requirement regarding age concerning this Sacrament -- merely that the person has been baptized and manifests a heartfelt desire for God's healing power.
Because the Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick also imparts the forgiveness of sin, it may be administered only by a Bishop or Priest. A penitential rite followed by the reading of Scripture awakens the faith of the sick person and his or her family members and friends to pray to Christ for the strength of the Holy Spirit. God's healing power is imparted through the Laying on of Hands and Anointing with the Oil of the Sick on the forehead and hands of the patient: "Through this holy anointing may the Lord in his love and mercy help you with the grace of the Holy Spirit. May our Lord Jesus Christ, who frees you from sin, save you and raise you up."
Because Sacraments are for the living, there is a different means of providing pastoral care for those who are in danger of death and for the families of those who have already died. For those in danger of death, the Church offers the Eucharist as Viaticum (food for the journey) and prayers for the Commendation of the Dying. These rites are cherished by Catholics and seek to assist the dying in the process of letting go and surrendering their souls into God's hands. Once a person has died and the soul has departed this world to be with God, the Church's attention turns solely to the grieving, to support them and accompany them in living beyond their loss.
The Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick and the rites which comprise Pastoral Care for the Dying are available at any time merely by contacting one of the priests via the Parish Office.