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From: lisette ( -
Subject: Re: Vegan Retirement Communities
Date: May 7, 2012 at 7:13 am PST

In Reply to: Vegan Retirement Communities posted by Patricia Halloff on February 27, 2012 at 1:26 pm:

I may be able to help. I'm a geropsychologist as well as a nurse, have worked extensively with older populations in various types of care facilities, and am currently working on getting a Health Care Administration degree so I can one day run a care facility the way I think it should be run - with respect and accomodation for people's individuality! One day I want to combine the best of the Green House and Eden concepts, with the addition of a portion of the place where people can live with their own pets, a nursery/day care for staff where elders can interact with the children if they wish and they can be safe doing so; even the nursing portion would be in small, single-floor cottages with no more than 12 residents in a cottage and everyone gets their own room; outdoor access for all residents; a music room, art room, craft and tool room, gardens, library; a community kitchen, with the understadning that staff will help supervise when needed, so that if you are awake at 2 am and you want a cup of tea and cookies, you can get them! Breakfast as a buffet, when you want it, any time before noon, instead of forcing people up at 6 am; and close ties to the larger community, for outings, picnics, speical events...I'd like to see a way to invite the town to the facilities' Holiday parties, as well as they other way around. That's what I envision. RIght now, let me tell you, that does not happen often, but the tide is turning in favor of this kind of model.

I'll tell you, getting personal dietary preferences accomodated in a facility is HARD. If you're in Independent Living, and have access to a kitchenette of your own, you can make shift pretty well. When the day comes that the facility is preparing all your food, however, you'll be dealing with the fact that the care establishment has this belief that older folks need huge amounts of animal protein to prevent muscle loss and with it risk of falls; this despite that I have seen zero research suggesting that vegan elders are a fall risk. In most facilities meat is the centerpiece, three meals a deal. Nobody seems to care that this is a strain on aging kidneys, that excess protein can contribute to bone loss...this may be less true in the North and West Coast regions; I don't know. here in the South, pork and chicken are at every meal, along with gallons and gallons of milk. I had a patient with advanced Alzheimer's who no longer spoke. I was asked to find a behavioral-mod intervention to get him to stop throwing his milk at the staff. The solution was so obvious: he did not like milk, had no intention of drinking it, and made his preference known the only way he could! This is what you deal with in most places.

There IS, however, one way you can get a vegan diet accomodated, and it's ironclad: in ANY medical or long term care facility, you have an absolute and overriding right to your religious practice. If you're Muslim, you get halal; if you're Jewish, you get kosher; say that you are vegan due to religious/spiritual beliefs (and that's loosely defined; I don't think you have to belong to a specific denomination) and they HAVE TO accomodate your diet. It's a part of resident rights, it's law, and if they give you static, you call your state ombudsman. This can be written into your care plan, should you ever require nursing-home level of care, so that nobody can mess with it or override it, even your doctors. Make sure you get the facility dietician, the social worker and the administrator on board.

one thing you might consider is whether you can find (and like) a Quaker - run care community. Quakers tend to be very, very understanding of forward-thinking practices, including veganism, and tend to try a little harder to respect individual preferences..

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