Proper preparation is the key to dining out with your loved ones who have a dementia diagnosis. Just because their mental state is compromised does not mean they wouldn’t enjoy a chance to connect with friends and family. Some forethought is needed to ensure an enjoyable experience for everyone involved.
- Choose a quiet, calming environment
- Bring essential/familiar dining items to ease their comfort level
- Aim for an ideal time of day (when do they usually feel their best?)
- Help them decide what to order by narrowing choices and/or reading the menu to them
- Don’t rush them, but do keep the outing short
Keep in mind that a busy restaurant environment is very distracting, even for those of us without dementia. It can be downright daunting to someone with it. If these types of social situations tend to trigger anxiety or other unwanted feelings, perhaps it might be best to take baby steps at first. Maybe go out for ice cream after having dinner at home? After that outing, assess what went well, and determine how to maximize on those highlights for the next outing.
Once at the establishment, consider whether facing a room full of other diners would cause them distress. Perhaps they’d rather have a less distracting view, or a window seat. Do they prefer plastic or metal utensils? Every tactile experience takes all of the senses into account. Even unfamiliar items on the table that aren’t present at home (jelly, sugar bowls, flower vases, etc.) can be overwhelming, so do you what you can to manage the environment. It is also a good idea to check out the restaurant’s menu online before your visit so that you can help narrow down choices for your loved one. It’s not only the dining establishment that needs to be managed. Simple things that you do at home, such as putting a bib on a dementia patient, might adversely affect their dining-out experience.
Feel free to contact us for other ideas to incorporate family and friends into your loved one’s routine. We have years of experience and have seen thousands of examples with clients having a dementia diagnosis. No question is too small and no situation is too complicated for our staff of professionals.