Some people are surprised to learn that veganism is not just a diet; it’s a belief system based on the principle of avoiding animal exploitation that is protected by law. There are multiple links between veganism and person-centred care. For example, effectively meeting vegan needs requires a person-centred approach, and services that seek to involve and empower patients, carers and community members should aim to be vegan-friendly. Let’s zoom in on some topics relevant to health and care.
Care catering is not just about nutrition. In the words of the Care Quality Commission, “when a person has specific dietary requirements relating to moral or ethical beliefs…these requirements must be fully considered and met”. Furthermore, provision of a special diet should be discussed with the individual in order to establish preferences and any additional needs.
A stay in hospital can be a difficult time, and many vegans have to overcome the added challenge of getting the right food. These personal experiences have been published as part of The Vegan Society’s Hospital Catering for All campaign in order to help caterers and ward staff to understand the needs of a vegan patient. Nutritional care should be provided in a way that respects equality and diversity.
Medical nutrition and medication
Currently, medical nutrition companies are not manufacturing nutritionally complete products that are suitable for vegans. The closest you can get to a supplement drink is a vegan-friendly meal replacement product, and even soya-based tube feed contains vitamin D3 from wool fat. If an undernourished vegan is unable to obtain adequate nutrition from a food-based approach, it is important to discuss options in a sensitive manner. The Vegan Society’s definition of veganism recognises that it’s not always possible to avoid the use of animals, but bear in mind that it could be the first time in decades that this person has considered consuming a nutrition product containing animal ingredients.
Regarding medication, a vegan may have no alternative to using a product that is tested on animals and contains ingredients of animal origin. Again, sensitive discussion of the options available is important. Sometimes, it is possible to find a suitable alternative to a medication containing animal ingredients. For more information, check out this blog written by a pharmacist.
When discussing these issues, remember that there is variation in the ways that people practice their beliefs. Every vegan journey is unique.
In conclusion, we can learn many lessons about person-centred care by looking at it through the lens of veganism. The Vegan Society is passionate about supporting both vegans and service providers, and you can find out more at www.vegansociety.com.