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Successful Dining Out with Alzheimer’s

Sat, Aug 26, 2017 at 2:42PM



Dining out can be a challenging, even stressful, experience for families when a loved one has Alzheimer’s or other related dementia. While many of us take the dining out experience for granted, these families are faced with the decision, stay home or exclude their senior loved one. Dining out does not have to be something that you dread or avoid. With the right accommodations and a little prep work, a meal away from home can be successful. Here are a few tips to help make the dining out experience more enjoyable for both you and your senior loved one.


  • Find your “Go to Restaurant”- Restaurant choice plays a huge part in the success of your outing. When choosing a restaurant look for these qualities:
    • Not too fancy- generally if they serve food that you can eat with your hands (burgers, fries, sandwiches) you are good to go.
    • Kind staff- you want to find a restaurant that has the same people working every time you are there. They will eventually be able to remember your names and your loved ones needs.
    • Choose cozy and small restaurants, as opposed to loud and busy
    • Aim for familiar, favorite restaurants where your loved one has frequented in the past


  • Pick the right table- Table choice is very important and once you find the right one ask for it every time you visit. Avoid tables near the main traffic flow of the restaurant or too close to the kitchen. Pick a table that has easy access, especially as your loved one develops the need for a walker or wheelchair. Booths are great for keeping distractions at a minimum and helping you position yourself directly across from your loved one or next to them if you fear they may wander off. Try to avoid booths that are a tight fit and difficult to get out of, however. Outside seating is another great option if the weather is right.


  • Call ahead- It is helpful to call ahead to the restaurant. Find out which days and times are less busy and make reservations if possible. If you find it necessary, explain that your loved one has Alzheimer’s and communicate any special accommodations you may need.  


Did you know? The Alzheimer’s Association offers free “Pardon my Companion” cards. These cards are the size of business cards and can be discreetly handed to a waitress to raise awareness about Alzheimer’s disease. To request Pardon My Companion cards, please contact the Alzheimer's Association at 1.800.272.3900.


  • Order smart- Many restaurants give the option to see their menu online ahead of time. It doesn’t hurt to go over the food choices with your loved one before you get to the restaurant. You can also help ordering go much smoother by asking “yes” or “no” questions. Instead of saying “What do you want to drink?”, ask “Would you like coffee to go with your breakfast?” If you know your senior loved one’s food preferences it also doesn’t hurt to give them a 2 or 3 choices instead of overwhelming them with the entire menu.


  • Be prepared- Don’t let slow service throw off the entire meal. It never hurts to have a few tricks up your sleeve when it comes to waiting for your food. Throw a deck of cards in your purse, read the menu together and discuss the food, browse the newspaper, or scroll through pictures on your smartphone together.


  •  Be restroom aware- Know where the restrooms are located, and it never hurts to be prepared with a change of clothes just in case there is a spill or accident.


Caregiver Tip: Have you heard of Purple Table Reservations? A restaurant who participates in the Purple Table program provides special accommodations and has trained their staff in order to make the dining experience more enjoyable for families with Alzheimer’s, dementia, Autism, PTSD, hearing or vision problems, and other physical or cognitive impairments.  



Stayed tuned to the County Health Care Guide Blog to learn more about assisted-living, senior care, senior placement, and important senior news in Volusia County. From Daytona to Port Orange to New Smyrna Beach, the County Health Care Guide is the only resource you need.


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