My mom and dad have always loved to go to dinner. Recently, as my father’s dementia has progressed, mom feels more uncomfortable bringing dad out in public. I went with them to dinner this week for the first time in a few months and I definitely noticed a change. His table manners and lack of social graces definitely attract attention now. I want to tell my mom to not worry about it and continue taking dad out as long as it’s safe, but I’m not sure she’s comfortable doing that anymore. Could you suggest anything that could help mom manage these trips out to dinner? -Debbi S.

I would suggest to your mom that she consider the places that they go and decide on one or two that are the most likely to be successful. Some factors to consider are the overall atmosphere of the place and friendliness of the staff. Choose a place and time that aren’t too busy and crowded. Plan ahead for contingencies: a long wait can lead to restlessness, and too much busyness might become overstimulating. Find a place to sit that’s fairly quiet and where an easy exit can be made should dinner need to be cut short. Take a snack or small activity for the wait time. Perhaps a quiet word with your server would be helpful so she understands the situation. If your mom goes to a regular place on a consistent night, hopefully she can establish a relationship with the staff and not have to explain all the time. Your mom might also feel more comfortable having a third person present.

Additionally, some caregivers travel with wallet-sized cards that they can hand to staff asking for patience. See the article “Taking Your Loved One on An Outing” to download your own set of Companion Cards.

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