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Dining out with the elderly

Lutherf

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I just wanted to pass some stuff along here. Most of it is probably common sense and not exactly a revelation to anyone here but I've found some tips and tricks that work for me so maybe they'll work for someone else too.

Now, when I'm talking "elderly" I'm not talking about just age. I'm talking more about people with mobility issues, cognitive issues and, perhaps, even incontinence issues. I'm also talking about making dining out an enjoyable experience for everyone involved and that includes restaurant staff, the person you're caring for and YOU! We're talking "quality of life" here, not merely convenience or "doing the right thing because I have to".

First, if the person you're taking out has incontinence issues then make sure they use the restroom before you take them out. Common sense, right? Well, sometimes we're in a rush, sometimes they may be anxious to get out and sometimes we just forget. Don't forget!

Second, think "ease of access". If the person you're caring for has mobility problems then don't pick a place where they have to walk 100 yards or go up a flight of stairs. That should be obvious. Also, don't pick a place where tables are packed in or your only option is a booth. Getting in and out of chairs is often easier than getting in and out of a booth. Also, some places have booths that are up on a little bit of a step. This can cause more hassle getting in and out.

Third, go when it isn't busy. You'll have more time to get everyone situated and staff will have more time to attend to things like slow decision making. Basically, it will give staff an opportunity to observe and understand the situation. If this means leaving the office early so you can get to a restaurant before 5 then take that as a win for you too!

Fourth, speaking of slow decision making, if the person you're caring for has cognitive issues then less decisions are better. That doesn't mean going to a place that only offers one thing. It means asking simple, straight forward questions such as "Would you rather have chicken or beef"? When you get that answer just suggest an item from the menu and you're more likely to get an "OK, that sounds good".

Fifth, if the person you're caring for has issues with hand or arm mobility you may need to cut up their food for them. Ask your server to do this in the kitchen or just make room to do it at the table. If the kitchen will do it you're WAY ahead of the game. When possible, suggest stuff that doesn't need to be cut up.

Sixth, go somewhere decent. Don't pick a place just because it meets all the other criteria. Pick a place you'll like too and one that will be comfortable for all involved. Sure, Chez Hoity Toity may not be the best choice but that doesn't mean that you have to go to McDonald's either. Make it a normal dining experience. After all, quality of life doesn't have to mean "compromise".

Seventh, if the person you're caring for has dementia or is prone to wandering off then don't leave them alone on the curb while you park the car. Is that obvious? It should be but, again, I've seen some things!

Eighth and final, get some variety in! Just because one or two places work for this kind of thing don't be afraid to try others. You may be surprised at what you find.

The bottom line to all of this is to make the experience as normal as possible for everyone. Don't make going out to dinner a huge production because that just causes unrealistic expectations, frustration and resentment. If you're caring for a loved one in this condition you likely don't have a ton of time left with them anyway so make it as enjoyable as possible while you can.

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Pro Tip -

Sometimes people with cognitive issues can be rather free with their speech and rather loud in their voice. Learn to smile and change the subject when a topic comes up that may not be appropriate for the time and place. Just sayin'
 

OldFatGuy

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Bring a dog used to crowds, claim it is a service dog. You can blame the dog for almost anything smelling weird. People are more understanding. Or just bring grandkids, borrowed if need be.
 

Angel

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I regularly dine out with a nonagenarian couple (90, 93), dear friends of longstanding, and the recurring problem I've encountered is emotional. If the table isn't the one they expected, if the service doesn't come up to their expectations, if the responsiveness of waiters is not fast enough, if they don't get their check promptly when they're ready to leave, etc., they get miffed and complaining and sometimes cause a scene and invariably make for an awkward situation that can spoil the dinner out.

Any tips?
 

Lutherf

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I regularly dine out with a nonagenarian couple (90, 93), dear friends of longstanding, and the recurring problem I've encountered is emotional. If the table isn't the one they expected, if the service doesn't come up to their expectations, if the responsiveness of waiters is not fast enough, if they don't get their check promptly when they're ready to leave, etc., they get miffed and complaining and sometimes cause a scene and invariably make for an awkward situation that can spoil the dinner out.

Any tips?

That doesn't sound like an age or infirmity issue. That sounds like an attitude issue. Your best bet in a situation like that is to find a place with a server they like and make that your "go to" when your with them.
 

vesper

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When taking the elderly out here are some things I would recommend for some of you who may be faced with it in the future.

1. If they are hard of hearing, learn to shout with a smile on your face and in a loving way. If you don't, others around you will look at you as engaging in an act of anger. Don't forget the smile. :)
And make sure you look at them directly when talking to them.
2. Make sure that both your hands are free and that you are locking arms with your elderly friend/relative when walking. Make sure you are also their eyes to upcoming obstacles. Yes a curb can be an obstacle.

3. Those with potty problems most often do wear appropriate undergarments. It only takes one time for them to become embarrassed due to uncontrol to make that realization.


4. Instead of a restaurant in good weather pack a picnic lunch and head to a park. Nature is a wonderful backdrop. Feed the birds, squirrels, ducks, geese.... In bad Winter weather I don't recommend taking fragile, those with physical mobility problems out to just anywhere. It is just too dangerous. But what you can do is pick them up and take them to your home where you can insure the walkways are clear and serve them lunch and just spend time with them. It is important that they get out but more important is just spending time with them. It is also during the Winter you make a special effort to call them more often and assist them in providing them with what they may need.

5. When you are taking an elderly person shopping, your most precious cargo is them. You first must make sure they make it inside the store safely. When leaving the store you will not only have to secure them back to the car but you will also have purchases to deal with. You need both hands free. At grocery stores you can pull up and the baggers will load the car. At the mall it can get tricky. One of those carts you see elderly using to haul their packages is something to invest in. You have to seat them at an entrance. You first take the packages to the car and then go back and assist them to the car. Then when you take them home you first have to assist them with two free hands to their home and then go back and retrieve all their packages. Then you help them put everything away before leaving. I confess after one of these outings when I get home I need a nap. It is exhausting especially if they live in an apartment building on the 2nd, 3rd floor.!
 
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