If you have children you have likely struggled to find kid-friendly restaurants. For those who are caregivers for a loved one living with Alzheimer’s disease, dining out may present a similar challenge. The disease often requires families to make special accommodations at mealtimes and to be more flexible when it comes to table manners and behaviors. When you are eating out, however, these changes might look a little unusual to other diners.
Meal Time Challenges with Alzheimer’s Disease
A night without the burden of cooking might be exactly what a caregiver needs. For many busy families, dining out is a part of their regular routine. But when a loved one lives with Alzheimer’s, restaurants can be intimidating places. The person living with the disease may face challenges that include:
- Difficulty using utensils
- Accessibility issues for restrooms and with booth or bench-style tables
- Increased impatience waiting for a table and waiting for food to arrive
- Wait staff unaccustomed communicating with someone who has dementia
- Noisy environments and distractions that increase agitation
Before you give up the idea of a night out, here are a few suggestions to consider that can make the experience easier on everyone:
- Think about visiting local restaurants that are more casual in nature. Those used to serving families with small children might be best. They aren’t usually as concerned when guests are a little messier.
- Menu items that allow diners to eat with their fingers can make it easier for your loved one to blend in. Chicken wings, sandwiches, fries and burgers might be good choices.
- Try to go during off times. If you don’t know what those are, call the restaurant. They can usually tell you what times you are less likely to face a long wait.
- Discretely explain your situation to the hostess or wait staff. They might be able to find a quiet corner for your family that is a little less distracting for someone with dementia.
- Consider taking a deck of cards or other busy work for your loved one to do while you wait for your food.
We hope these tips help you find ways to enjoy a night out with the entire family! If you have suggestions that might help other families, please share them in the comments below.