Memory Care and Inclusivity Pledge

Imagine that you have been vegetarian or vegan for a number of years or even decades. Sadly, you are no longer able to live independently and have to receive extra care, so move into a care home.

Your family and yourself make clear your food preferences. But what happens 6 months or a year down the line if you no longer remember that you were vegan or vegetarian? How would you feel if you were then offered and served meat, or if you unknowingly started to choose meat dishes?

Vegetarian for Life is proud to announce the launch of a Memory Care Pledge that will be taken by care homes up and down the UK.

This is to help ensure that vegetarians or vegans who have capacity issues, or cognitive losses, will be offered a choice of meals, drinks and snacks that uphold their ethical beliefs.

At Vegetarian for Life it is incredibly important to us that residents can live the rest of their lives the way that they intended.

So, we are asking care homes to make a Memory Care Pledge.

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Many care homes have already signed up, including Gracewell of Sutton Coldfield.

Jody Sedgwick, manager at the home in the West Midlands, said it was paramount that they made a care pledge.

She said:

“The memory care pledge is an incredibly important campaign and I think everyone who has affiliated with Vegetarian for Life needs to truly get behind this.”

Jody, who has been vegetarian for a number of years was given meat in a meal while out in a restaurant and only realised part way through eating the meal.

She said:

“I was horrified, in fact I felt heartbroken. Actually I felt every negative emotion going. What struck the deepest chord of all was that not only had I eaten meat, I had eaten it without consent, without my knowing or my say so, I felt nothing short of violated, it made me physically ill and mentally scarred.

“My point is I am someone with full capacity, fit and well and able to rationalise (mostly) and what got me ‘over’ this was the fact it was isolated and will never happen to me again. This awful experience has been so profound for me and has helped me to understand how incredibly important it is for us to support and uphold this dietary need and requirement for our residents who lack capacity. Vegetarianism and veganism is a belief system, thus we absolutely have a duty to our residents that we advocate this and ensure that they too have a healthy, variety of vegetarian and vegan food.

“The experience I had earlier this year reinforces to me why the Memory Care Pledge is of the absolute utmost importance to those living in care homes.”

Long-term vegan Richard Horsfield, who is 79, is also backing the pledge.

He has been vegan since his 20s and has been a keen activist throughout his life.

Richard is fit and well, but said that if and when he has to move into a home he would want the reassurance of ensuring he would only be fed plant-based meals.

He said:

I’m trying to postpone going into a care home with lots of swimming but there’s only so much you can do when you were born in 1939.

“I know it’s likely to be my future so being reminded of my choices if I have memory issues is paramount to me.

“I couldn’t bear the idea now of being given meat.

“So the Memory Care Pledge is a fantastic idea that shows that being vegetarian and vegan is being taken seriously.

“Being vegan may not be a religion but we are as passionate about our pathway through life. We need to keep being given plant-based meals and be reminded of that as we grow older.”

Amanda Woodvine, Chief Executive of Vegetarian for Life said:

The numbers of care homes that have agreed to cater well and ethically for older vegetarians and vegans is constantly rising. We are delighted that over 1,250 care homes are on the VfL UK List. This constant growth shows how much of a priority meat-free catering is becoming in the care sector.

“But we want to ensure older vegetarians are catered well for their whole lives, especially if capacity issues or cognitive losses become prevalent. We are encouraging care homes to pledge that they will also help uphold residents’ choices for vegetarian or vegan living.

“An example of best practice could be that if a vegan resident were to accidentally choose a meat-based or non-vegan option, catering staff would do their very best to ensure that a plant-based alternative similar to the chosen dish would be offered.

“This would give family members peace of mind knowing everything was being done to help look after their loved one in the way that they wanted.

“But we can’t do this alone; we need as many care homes to sign up as possible. It’s free, and really simple to do.

“Let’s ensure that meal times are inclusive, enjoyable and in line with all residents’ beliefs and wishes for their whole lives.”