Tips for Dining Out

Tips for Dining Out                    By Lori La Bey

Going to a restaurant was a painful process for my Mother, even though she loved to go out to eat.  She loved the social aspect of dining out.  She could not decide what to order, making her frustrated and in the end, she would get whatever I ordered.  I got to the point of saying, “Hey Mom, I’m going to get blah, blah, blah, you want the same and we can be twins?”  The decision was made and she would laugh.  She was happy, as I knew what she liked to eat.  She did not have that decision weighing her down.  Worst case she eyeballed someone else’s food at the table when it arrived and we would all switch it up or share. It is one of those ways to help her maintain her dignity as the slide of Alzheimer’s descended.  This is especially important when the person is aware of the changes within them.  Here is  a quick list  to keep in mind:

Go to the rest room before you leave home.

Check to see if they have medications they need to take while you are gone.

Pick a restaurant where they know the menu and do not have to look, read, or make a decision.  Some place where they know or you know what they like to eat.  This will make things much easier.

Having a friendly familiar face wait on you eases things too.

Check out the restaurant prior to arriving, by either calling or personally going there.  Are there steps?  Is there a ramp?  Is the walkway smooth and in good shape?  Is exterior lighting good in the evening?  Will the interior lighting and environment be comfortable for them?  How is the restaurant for sound?  Will it be easy to talk and carry on a conversation or is it open and loud?  Do they have a large handicap bathroom, in case you need to go in there with them?  What kind of menu do they have?  Is the seating important to you? (Booth, rounds, squares)   

If your person with Alzheimer’s wants to pay for their dinner or others, how will this be handled?  Do they have money or a credit card?  How about handling tipping and making sure they get correct change? Are they going with people that know the situation?  You do not want them taken advantage of or being embarrassed.  These things must be thought out ahead of time.

Do they have or need a certain cup they use for drinking?

What do they like to eat and drink?  Down to salad dressings, cream or sugar in their coffee, butter or margarine, salt and pepper …

Do they prefer using a straw, cup, can, or bottle to drink from?

Are they sensitive to hot and cold foods?

Is it best to limit their beverage intake?

Can they use utensils or are finger foods better?

Can they have alcohol?

Do they have any allergies?

Stay away from buffet lines, or get their food for them when they get to the point there are too many choices, to much stimulation.  Before we caught onto this as a family, Mom would have four plates going in one buffet line.  She would start one plate, see something else she liked, get another plate, and start over.   We could still go the restaurant, but I would go get her food and bring it back to her.

Go to the rest room before you leave to go home!

4 Replies to “Tips for Dining Out”

  1. I find it best to do fast food-type restaurants, where there’s no wait-staff. Mom takes an hour to eat usually. After I get her started self-feeding, I eat quickly & spend the rest of my time coaxing her to eat more. There’s no pressure for her to finish quickly.

    Buffets are good, but I make the selections for her. Her decision-making skills have practically vanished. I get her set down & eating before I get mine. I handle the paying at the restaurants.

    She’s now down to 118 lbs. She used to be a 2X in clothing, now she’s a medium.

    1. HI Betty,
      Thanks for your comments. Each person is different including us as caregivers in how we react and what we need to do to make things work smoothly. I have found ungoing adjustments are mandated and that’s ok. Rountines used to be important to me, when I looked cloely at why I found it was a control thing on my part. Some of my frustration came from not being able to have things the same, so I knew what to expect. I have now adjusted my thinking to realize it’s truly about my Mother’s comfort and what works within her routine, not mine. It sounds so funny to state out loud, but I think as caregivers we get so busy being busy, trying to get everything done in a “perfect” fashion, we sometimes forgot the true goal of our role. It’s not about the things we do, but the people we do them for and how they feel about what we do and how we do it. How we do things always causes a reaction and we have to focus on “their reaction” and adjust to meet their needs, as they no longer have the ability to adjust.
      Thanks again for your comments. It is always great to hear what is or isn’t working with others!

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