How to Help Someone With Dementia Make Restaurant Choices

Does the person you're caring for hesitate or seem perplexed by a long menu? Difficulty making choices is common in early- and mid-stage dementia. What was once simple has become more challenging due to a combination of memory loss, loss of judgment and the ability to process options, and fear of saying something wrong.

Some ways to help:

  • Don't mistake respectfulness for helping. It might seem kind to wait patiently while your companion orders, but this can actually heighten his or her anxiety and confusion.

  • Instead, gently preempt a choice by stepping in with a suggestion: "Look, today's special is your favorite: salmon." Or, "I'm having salmon. You, too?"

  • Alternately, narrow the many options on the menu to just two: "Which sounds better to you: salmon or chicken?"

Paula Spencer Scott

Paula Spencer Scott is the author of Surviving Alzheimer's: Practical Tips and Soul-Saving Wisdom for Caregivers and much of the Alzheimer's and caregiving content on Caring. See full bio

over 4 years, said...

Also consider: You have always enjoyed this dish in the past, would you like to try it tonight? Before this article, I did not realize what a problem menus could be. It explains some observations.

about 5 years, said...

It is so comfortable to read that I have been doing something correctly---like suggesting choices in a restaurant! My husband's dementia is mild to middle--and sometimes it is distressing to care for ----then I read an article on here and it makes my day much better.!

over 5 years, said...

Your information is of much much help and assuring of the many circumstances that arise suggestions are made. I'm very very grateful. Gene

over 6 years, said...

When I take my loved one out who has Alzheimer's disease, I look at the menu and break it down to categories. Once we determine if she wants a sandwich, a salad or a steak it it simple to make a choice. If she is hungry she will get the salad because she knows it will be a largo bowl with grilled chicken on top. If she is not sure I use terms like, "a nice sandwich with gooey melted cheese and crispy bread."

over 6 years, said...

I get exasperated a lot, but never thought of doing this, it's very tactful without making my husband think he can't even make a choice in a restaurant. Making choices is getting harder for him and I don't always have the patience I suppose I should have. Thanks!