GOING OUT TO EAT WITH your mom (or anyone) who has dementia or Alzheimer’s can be quite a challenge, but it can also be a rewarding experience.
A few tips and a little planning can make all the difference. Here’s are some ideas from the National Institute on Aging.
Choosing the Right Restaurant
- Does mom know this restaurant well? Taking her to an unfamiliar place might be a bad idea.
- How’s the noise level? Quiet is preferable as loud noises can cause confusion.
- Can you get right in or do you have to wait? Waiting can cause anxiety for us “normal” people. For someone with Alzheimer’s it can be absolutely nerve wracking.
- Ditto with the service. Waiting patiently is not one of mom’s strengths!
- Will the restroom meet your mom’s needs? You know what we mean.
- How’s the food? Are there things here you know mom likes? Better still, are there things here you both like?
- Is the waitstaff understanding and helpful? Do they know your mom?
Decisions to make Ahead of Time
- Decide what is the best day to go. If the restaurant is slammed on the weekends, a weekday will work out better.
- When is the best time? As with many older people, mom probably likes to go out early and the service should be more prompt. If you can’t handle a 4:30 chicken dinner, try to get mom to take a nap before you go out.
- You may want to take some things with you that mom already uses–utensils, a towel, wipes or toilet items. Made sure this is OK with the restaurant.
At the Restaurant
- Tell the waitperson about any special needs, such as extra spoons, bowls or napkins.
- Ask for a table near the washroom and in a quiet area.
- To keep mom from getting distracted (and thereby confused) have her sit with her back to the busier areas of the restaurant.
- Help mom choose her dinner, unless she really want to do this herself. Suggest foods you now she likes. Read parts of the menu or show her pictures of the food. Keep it simple, as few choices as is reasonable.
- If mom sometimes spills her drinks or has shaky hands, ask the waitperson to only fill her glass half full.
- Make sure there is bread and butter on the table or order some appetizers to hold mom’s attention before the main course arrives.
- If mom needs to go to the bathroom, go with her. Go into the stall if she needs help. If you are male and can’t do this, ask some nice person to help.
Eating out with mom might sound like a hassle, but just think how great it is for her, and for you. She gets to go out and experience a different venue and the two of you will probably wind up having an enjoyable if somewhat disjointed conversation.
Being cooped up in the house is not good for anyone!
Note: This post is based on information from “Caring for a Person with Alzheimer’s Disease: Your Easy-to-Use Guide” from the National Institute on Aging. You can download a complete copy of the guide in PDF format by clicking on this link.
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