For most of us, going out to lunch with a friend or family member is a relaxing, enjoyable event. Instead of cooking and fussing over table settings, you are waited on in a pleasant environment. You take your time with the menu selections while you spend time “catching up” with each other. Perhaps you used to enjoy doing this with your mom or dad, back before he or she began to show symptoms of dementia. Yet, with the transition to caregiver, you may have become more hesitant to keep up the tradition, not knowing if your parent might become anxious or even act out in an inappropriate way. So you continue to opt not to take the risk.
It’s understandable. After a diagnosis of a dementia, such as Alzheimer’s disease, it can become more challenging to take a loved one out in public places, especially to restaurants where the slightest issue can become magnified in a new setting with strangers around.
With a little foresight and preparation, however, you may be able to get your lunch date back on track. Here are some tips that are known to have helped others:
- Choose a familiar restaurant. This assumes of course that it is one with a casual dining style with easy access to a comfortable booth or table. Some restaurants are more “senior friendly” than others. Seek them out.
- Make a reservation for a weekday, either before or after the lunch rush. You will not only avoid a longer wait time, but chances are your food will arrive more quickly. A short outing will be better tolerated and less tiring for both of you.
- Weather permitting, try to sit outdoors. Sunlight and a gentle breeze can have a soothing and overall healthy effect on all of us.
- Sit near a bathroom, if possible. Why navigate among a sea of tables and chairs with dad if you don’t have to?
- Keep the conversation going. Long lulls in the conversation can confuse an individual with dementia and lead to anxiety. Try reading off the various menu items and asking which ones your mom likes and which ones she doesn’t. Keep it lighthearted and explore opportunities for humor.
By following the above guidelines, you can give your loved one an opportunity to get out and socialize with others, something that is so important for those challenged by dementia. Keeping your outings short and pleasant will encourage more of them, along with an opportunity to keep your loved one more connected to you and to the world around them.