Dining Out When Your Family Member Has Alzheimer’s
Dining out is a treat. It gives you a break from every day, ordinary life – no planning, no cooking and no dishes. Just sitting down to enjoy yourself, those with which you are dining and a delicious meal.
Additionally, for many older adults, dining out is a wonderful opportunity to get out of the house and visit with family and friends. For someone with Alzheimer’s, it may be one of the few remaining outings they still enjoy. But Alzheimer’s can make the experience challenging as well.
Let’s look at some strategies that will help make the experience go as smoothly as possible.
Do a Little ReCon Before Making Reservations
Visit the restaurant to determine its ‘Alzheimer’s-friendliness.’ If they have a favorite restaurant that you think will work well, all the better. Their familiarity with it will make it easier for all concerned. Plan your visit to occur at the same time of day for when you intend to make your reservation. You want answers to the following:
- Will there be a long wait before being seated?
- Are the tables easy to access?
- Are the chairs stable and comfortable? Booths are often best. Are they easy to get in and out of?
- Will the staff be helpful and patient?
- Is the restroom manageable? Accessible?
- Are tables served quickly to prevent restlessness?
- Does the menu have items they enjoy?
Dine Out Earlier in the Day
Due to issues of fatigue and sundowner’s syndrome, an earlier reservation may be beneficial. Individuals with Alzheimer’s often do better during the day, and an afternoon reservation is likely to be less crowded since you’ll be avoiding peak business times.
Less people means less distractions and noise.
Consider Noise Levels
Quiet is good. In fact, in a national survey of diners, noise level was the number two complaint of diners of all age groups and for twenty-five percent of the diners, it was their major complaint. So, for someone who has a heightened sensitivity to noise and confusion, dining out in a noisy and congested restaurant can be difficult.
Therefore, as you consider where and when to dine, pick a restaurant that is quieter and then pick a time when that restaurant will be quietest. Setting up the experience to decrease opportunities that cause feelings of frustration and annoyance which often lead to outbursts of anger will enable everyone to have a more enjoyable time with each other.
Remember, ‘noisy’ is a relative term. What is mildly noisy to you may still prove to be too much for the person who has Alzheimer’s.
Provide Assistance Whenever Possible
Menus can be a problem, especially lengthy ones which can cause them to feel overwhelmed. There are several different ways you can help when it comes to menus. First, you can look at the menu online and make selections before you leave home, but they may not remember doing so. Second, after having looked at the menu online, then when in the restaurant you can point out to them that the restaurant serves one of their favorites. Lastly, you can create an abbreviated menu at home with everyone’s favorites. Print it out and have the waitress hand this to everyone at your table.
If using utensils is difficult for them, order finger foods. Good choices could include sandwiches, pita pockets, wraps, fish sticks, French fries, tater tots and fruit such as apple slices and orange sections.
Seating choices should be made that will help them cope with being out in public. Booths on an outside wall are generally better than tables as they offer privacy and shield them from noise levels and distractions. Kitchen noise can be a problem, so ask to be seated away from the kitchen. Seating close to the restroom can also be helpful in the event they need to get there quickly.
Be sure to accompany them to the restroom, offering support as needed. This may include going into the stall with them to be able to assist them if they need help. Carry a change of clothes with you just in case there is an accident.
Purple Table Reservations
If you have a restaurant at which you like to dine, and they don’t have the Purple Table Reservations program, tell them about it. Encourage them to become a part of the program and together we can begin filling a need for those who have Alzheimer’s (and other disabilities) yet still want to enjoy the pleasure of dining out. Purple Table Reservations is the brainchild of The Red Raven owner, Jennifer Apazicis, who began the program at her restaurant in Acton, Massachusetts, after her mother was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s.
Memory Care at The Brielle
At The Brielle, our Valeo wellness philosophy centers on holistic care, focusing on the physical, social, intellectual and spiritual components of wellness. By maintaining and improving each of these areas of their lives, our memory care community provides customized care to each resident helping them to thrive. Our goal is to provide memory care with compassion. To learn more, contact us today. Be sure to download our Memory Care Resource Guide.
Once you have found a restaurant that works well and found a time that works best, why not make dining out a weekly occurrence. By going to the same place at the same time, they will become familiar with the routine and with the staff at the restaurant. And the staff will become familiar with your needs as well. Don’t let Alzheimer’s rob you of the pleasure of dining out.