By Caroline Woodcock, on the Dementia UK’s Admiral Nurse Dementia Helpline.
Going to a restaurant can be an enjoyable experience for families with dementia, with tastes and smells of different meals helping to evoke memories, and an opportunity for families to create new ones.
What to do before you get there
Most restaurants provide the opportunity to view and download an online menu. Having a look at home at what meals are available allows you to see the choices at your own pace, and can remove any pressure from having to decide at the restaurant. Some restaurants even give the opportunity to pre-order meals for a set time, which can help reduce waiting times.
Have a think about when the best time for you to go out might be. Evenings are usually busier so a lunchtime slot may be a bit calmer.
Other considerations include the length of the meal – whether it is three or two courses – and speaking to the restaurant staff about the best seating arrangements before you get there. Perhaps you may need a more quiet area within the restaurant, if sounds and crowds will overwhelm you or the person you’re supporting. It can also allow you to support the person with dementia more discreetly, preserving their dignity. Having a seat nearby to any toilets can provide comfort and reassurance as well.
What to do when you’re there
The restaurant you have chosen may elicit memories of a previous holiday or experience, particularly if the décor is associated with a specific country. You can use this as an opportunity to reminisce about this experience whilst you wait for the meal, setting the tone for an enjoyable culinary experience.
If the restaurant has a garden or an outdoor area, weather permitting, you could spend time here whilst you wait for your meal, to have a bit of light exercise before the meal and to stimulate the mind.
Above all, try and have an enjoyable experience as much as possible and be kind on yourself and the person you’re supporting – especially if things don’t go according to plan. Having a think about what the person with dementia enjoys and how much help they are likely to need in public can help you come to a decision. It also reduces the chance of anything not going according to plan.
Many restaurants and bars are accommodating of the needs of people with dementia. A good idea is to ring up the restaurants in advance and let them know that a person with dementia is planning on coming and what options are available.
Watford has recently opened up a restaurant for people with dementia and their carers – the Forget Me Not restaurant includes staff who have educated themselves about dementia so that families can have as smooth an experience as possible, such as by narrowing the list of options they have when ordering the food.
There are also many lunch clubs for people with dementia and their carers, which can be a great way to socialise with others. Your local council can let you know what is available in the area. Age UK also runs a number of lunch clubs throughout the country.
If you have any further questions about the practicalities of going out with someone with dementia, or have questions about managing the condition generally, then please do get in touch with our Admiral Nurse Dementia Helpline on 0800 888 6678 or email email@example.com.
Going out series: galleries, museums and exhibitions with a person with dementia
In the first of our going out series, Consultant Admiral Nurse Jules Knight focuses on museums, galleries and other exhibitions and how families can make the most out of a day out there with someone they know living with dementia