Moving into a care home doesn’t mean leaving behind your way of life or having to conform to a communal way of living. A key aspect of moving into a care home is for staff to learn about residents’ preferences and cultural backgrounds. As part of this, enabling people to make choices and continue to observe their religious beliefs is key to providing person-centred care.
Catering Support Manager Ian Powell explains how care home chefs cater for residents with differing religious beliefs.
As part of our care practices at Country Court we believe that people should be free to live out their personal principles including in relation to their diet. All our residents have the right to make choices in relation to their food and drink, people who live in our homes come from culturally diverse communities and practice a wide range of religious beliefs.
Our chefs and catering teams are trained to understand the laws and customs of different religions. Together with care staff our teams ensure that special days are marked appropriately and respectfully. The sight, smell and taste of symbolic foods are especially important for people living with dementia, helping them to connect to what is meaningful and important to them.
Muslim Residents only eat halal (lawful) foods, which include fruit, vegetables, and eggs. Any meat and meat products they consume must be from a halal slaughtered animal. Milk and dairy foods are halal, cheese may be halal depending on ingredients. There are concerns that not all meat sold as halal is, so careful sourcing and traceability of the origins of the meat is important.
Haram (prohibited) foods include pork, crustaceans, blood, non-halal animal-derived additives such as gelatine or suet, alcohol and any foods containing alcohol as an ingredient. Care teams and residents have recently asked about hand sanitisers that typically contain 60%-90% alcohol, wondering whether they are haram (forbidden). Most Muslims agree that anything that is a necessity is allowed, meaning alcohol-based cleaning products that don’t have an intoxicating effect are halal especially given their importance in tackling the current pandemic.
Fasting is required during Ramadan, the ninth month of the Islamic calendar, when Muslims must refrain from consuming food, liquids, and medication between sunrise and sunset. If there are any clinical contradictions or risks associated with these requirements they are discussed with the resident and their family to allow them to make informed choices.
Most Hindus are lacto-vegetarian (avoiding meat and eggs), although some may eat lamb, chicken, or fish. Beef is always avoided because the cow is considered a holy animal, but dairy products are eaten. Animal-derived fats such as lard and dripping are not permitted.
Sikhs are forbidden to eat meat from animals slaughtered according to religious guidelines, and therefore Sikhs do not eat halal or kosher meat. Sikhs do not consume alcohol, and some may be vegetarian.
Jewish residents require that food that is kosher, meaning the food must meet the standards of kashrut, the Jewish laws about food. Food must be suitable and pure. Kosher does not restrict foods from any food group.
However, according to the Torah (Jewish law), the only types of meats that are acceptable are cattle and game that have cloven hooves and chew cud. Sheep, cattle, and goats may be eaten as they meet the requirement, whereas pigs cannot be eaten as, although they have cloven hooves, they do not chew cud. After slaughter, forbidden blood, veins, and certain fats must be removed.
Chicken, turkey, goose, and duck can be eaten, but other birds are forbidden. Eggs from kosher birds can be eaten if they do not contain blood. Slaughter must be carried out according to Shechita methods.
Dairy products from kosher animals may be eaten, although meat and dairy cannot be eaten together and a period, dependent on an individual’s belief, is required between meat and milk dishes. The law requiring the separation of meat and dairy products is strict and includes the need for separate utensils. Bread should not contain dairy products. Only fish with scales may be eaten and shellfish is forbidden. Fruit and vegetables may be eaten.
When a new resident joins one of our care homes details of their religion and dietary preferences are identified on admission and recorded in their care plan. These details are shared with the catering team so that they can discuss their requirements with each resident and allow them to make informed choices for themselves.
Having detailed information about each resident helps the catering team to prepare food correctly and in accordance with religious practices. For example, food may be prepared in a separate area of the kitchen, with separate utensils, sinks and additional washing were required.