Dining Out with Someone Living with Memory Loss

Vicky Pitner   -  

Successfully dining out with someone living with dementia can be achieved with simple adaptations. Crowded spaces, confusing menus, and generally navigating wait times or delays with your order can make it difficult, but following the tips below when dining out with someone with dementia can make for a pleasant dining experience for both you and your family member or friend. Keeping active in community activities, such as eating out, promotes independence and enhances well-being and quality of life for you and your loved one.

  • Choose a familiar restaurant or one that has open spaces and is not known for its large crowds. Choosing a familiar restaurant will be comforting and possibly offer the chance to see friends.
  • Plan to go for breakfast, lunch, or an early dinner. Often people with dementia can become more confused as the sun is setting and shadows are present.
  • Looking at menus can be confusing and overwhelming for your loved one. Check out the menu online before you go and choose your meals. People experiencing confusion and memory loss often just give up looking at the menu and order “what she is having” to avoid embarrassment.
  • Make reservations when possible and eat outdoors if the weather permits to avoid crowds. Go early to avoid the rush.
  • Stay up to date on your loved one’s food preferences. People in the later stages of dementia may experience a loss of smell or taste of some foods. Be mindful of what your loved one currently enjoys rather than the food he/she may be avoiding.
  • Ask to be seated close to the restrooms for quicker access if needed.
  • Bring helpful eating items such as special utensils if they are used at home.
  • Ask to sit in a quiet area and perhaps have your loved ones back to the room to minimize distractions.
  • Keeping the outing short will minimize tiredness. Skip the appetizer and take the dessert home.
  • Consider avoiding restaurants with loud live music if that might cause anxiety in your family member. On the other hand, a lunch spot with outdoor seating (weather permitting) and live music might make for a fun and lively social outing with friends.

When being out in the community with someone with confusion and anxiety, the most important consideration is reassuring your family member that they will be safe and bathrooms will always be nearby. As we age, the fear of falling and having bathroom accidents can be a worry, and often people become isolated and remain at home.

If your family member or friend quickly responds with a  “No,” to the invite, know that “no” doesn’t always mean no, I don’t want to go out to eat. “No” may just be a way for your family member to express those safety concerns. Compassion, patience, and reassurance for your loved one or friend can result in a pleasant dining experience for all.

If you would like more information on our Memory Ministry, Memory Cafe, or support trainings we offer, please contact Vicky Pitner at vpitner@firstumc.org