By Susan Fisher & Tammy Adams
Many of us enjoy dining out at restaurants, many times to celebrate a special occasion or enjoy treasured time with a loved one. For someone living with dementia and their care partner, dining out can be overwhelming and stressful. We’re here to tell you, there are ways to make your dining out experience enjoyable and special, even with the social challenges which come with dementia.
When working with or caring for someone living with dementia, familiarity is key. Perhaps there is a restaurant you and your loved one went to in earlier years, or a restaurant which holds special memories for you both. This will help them to feel more at ease while dining out.
Try to plan your outing during quieter restaurant hours. If you were to attempt to dine out during the lunch rush or dinner rush, your loved one may struggle during their meal. Restaurants can get pretty loud when they’re busy, and too much background noise can cause your loved one to feel overstimulated, agitated, or confused. A quieter environment will make it easier to carry a conversation with your loved one, gain more attention and time from the server, and will allow your loved one to not feel rushed to finish their meal.
If you can, speak off to the side with your server, prior to starting your dining out experience. Let them know your loved one has dementia and may have trouble navigating the menu, their behaviour may seem strange at times, or you may need to help them with ordering their meal. You can also ask your server to speak slowly and clearly and be patient with your loved one. If you are unable to pull your server aside, you can give them a note explaining the situation. Your local Alzheimer Society has these printed cards available.
Try to simplify the menu; choose a restaurant with a simple menu or a place where you already know what your order is going to be. If they’re presented with too many choices, they may start to get agitated and overwhelmed.
Make a reservation, so you and your loved one don’t need to wait in a long line. This will help to reduce their agitation and restlessness while waiting for your table.
Request to be seated in a quiet, well-lit area, away from the crowd and the kitchen. Oftentimes, the kitchen can get quite noisy, with people talking, dishes banging, etc., so sitting close to the kitchen may not provide the best dining experience. Similarly, if you are able to sit at a table, either in a separate room or away from crowds of people, there will be less distractions and disruptions.
Be patient and flexible. Plan your outing in advance but make sure you allow lots of time between your meal and any other activities you may be doing. Don’t be discouraged, if your plans have to change along the way, adapting to your loved one’s needs is OK!
We hope you find some of these tips for dining out with someone living with dementia to be helpful and useful. Remember, flexibility and patience are key.
Tammy and Susan run Silver Lights Senior Services, a family-owned and operated seniors’ homecare company, serving the City of Kawartha Lakes. Limited spaces available at their Adult Day Program for Dementia, in Lindsay, ON. Find them on Facebook and Instagram or visit their website, at www.silverlightsseniorservices.com. To book services, call Tammy, at 705 308 1940, or to register for the Day Program, call Susan, at 705 324 2911.