Tips for Dining Out with Seniors Who Have Mental Health Issues

• Written by @Lifeline24

This article has been contributed by George Relish

Dining out is an experience that the whole family should enjoy, including the elder members of our family. However, we understand how it can be different when dining out with seniors who have mental health issues.

Please keep in mind that dining out is not recommended for everyone. Depending on the type of mental health issue that your loved one has, as well as its severity, there are definitely those who might not benefit from this experience.

It’s still best to seek a doctor’s advice before going out with your senior, especially if you intend to go to a crowded, public place that might trigger the patient.

Those who have obtained that “go” signal, though, will find it very rewarding. Not only will it give your seniors the opportunity to bond with you, but it will also allow them to go out into the community and feel more welcomed.

To further help you out, we’d like to share with you the following tips to make the experience easier and more enjoyable for both you and your loved one:

Choose Your Restaurant Wisely

Not all restaurants are fit for someone who’s suffering from mental health issues. Therefore, it’s best to do your research beforehand. We highly recommend visiting the restaurant first. Don’t be afraid to ask questions such as how long the waiting time is, or whether they have comfortable seating.

There are also restaurants where staff receive advanced training on customer service and conflict handling. Finally, don’t forget to check the bathroom and its proximity to your planned seating.

Opt For an Early Reservation

Another thing that you should consider is the time of your reservation. It is ideal to choose an off-peak time when the restaurant is going to be less crowded and a lot quieter.

Keep in mind that there are mental health issues that can be triggered by noise. For instance,  according to the Alzheimer’s Association, people with the disease are often sensitive to noise. Exposure to certain sounds (including background noises such as passing traffic or other people’s conversations) can cause uncertainty, anger, and repetitive behaviours.

Discreetly Let Others Know That Your Loved One Has a Mental Health Issue

This is optional, but some carers find it more comfortable and convenient to have “awareness cards” handy. These are small cards that you can discreetly hand out to let people know that your loved one has a mental health issue.

There are numerous free downloadable resources online. You can always create and print cards yourself. It can be as simple as saying: “Please be patient. The person I am with has a condition known as (insert mental health issue here).” You can then place a short definition of the condition and its common symptoms and triggers at the back of the card.

Go On a Picnic Instead

Whoever said that dining out can only be done inside a restaurant? There’s no harm in exploring other options as long as they’re comfortable for your loved one. Another perk of “eating out” is the chance to order your food from a selection of different establishments.

For instance, you can order from another place for the kids, while you can get food for your senior from an establishment that offers elderly discounts.

Be Prepared

You need to prepare yourself as well. Caring for a senior loved one indoors is one thing, but going out with them, especially in a public setting, is something else entirely. It can be mentally and physically demanding.

Here are some steps that you can take:

Seek Professional Advice

You can ask your loved one’s doctor for advice on things that you can expect as well as some advice on any specific steps that you can do if your loved one suddenly has an episode.

You Might Need to Go to the Toilet with Your Loved One

If this is your first time taking your loved one out on your own, then be aware that you might need to get into the bathroom with them. Depending on the senior’s age, it is not uncommon for one to need assistance while they’re in the stall.

Order for Your Senior

Lengthy menus and small fonts can cause a lot of stress and confusion. Hence, some elderly care professionals suggest that a family member orders for a senior instead. This will also allow you to choose something that fits the dietary requirement of your companion. Just don’t forget to take their tastes into account to provide a more enjoyable experience.

Don’t Forget to Bring Some Supplies

Some seniors need special utensils in order to eat comfortably. We also recommend bringing wipes and other necessities that they might need for cleaning and bathroom trips.
Lastly, don’t forget to pack a change of clothing (at least one set) along with an extra jumper or blanket in case your loved one gets cold.

Learn More About Your Loved One’s Healthcare Plan

If your loved one is in a care home, or receives additional care, you should be mindful of their healthcare plan. This may include dietary restrictions and steps to take during an emergency.
Bring a medical kit along as well. This should include any medical documentation that you might need and, of course, any prescription that your senior needs to take before or after your meal.

Be Thoughtful and Patient

Your senior may take a while to do everything, from ordering their food to finishing it. It’s best not to rush them with anything. You should also be on the lookout for any indication that they are starting to get tired or uncomfortable already. After all, it would be wise to take them home before they start getting anxious, agitated, or uncooperative.

A Positive Experience

Taking a senior out for a quiet afternoon and a delicious meal shouldn’t be impossible. It simply takes a bit of patience and preparation.

By keeping the tips that we have shared with you in mind, we are confident that you’ll be able to enjoy this bonding moment. After all, how many of these events can you still share with your loved one? It’s best to cherish these opportunities while they’re still here.

Extra Support from LifeConnect24

Whether dining out with seniors who have mental health problems, or providing extra support it home, it can be reassuring to know that help is always available. Choosing to purchase a LifeConnect24 alarm system guarantees extra peace of mind for you and your loved ones.

To find out more about our alarm service, check out our personal alarm guide. If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to get in touch with our team on 0800 999 0400.

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