Depending on our situation, some of the fun stuff we used to do, can shrink away from us. One of these may be the opportunity to go out for dinner.
There are lots of reasons that eating out may get tricky for us. From behavioural challenges to liquid diets. From accessibility issues to financial challenges.
Carers in the Mobilise Community have shared lots of empathy for this situation. But also lots of top tips for how we may be able to still enjoy some culinary moments - with some creativity, flexibility and a little bit of planning.
Carers' top tips for a fun dining out
The main tip for managing a successful meal out appears to be in the planning. Yes, we may lose some of the fun of spontaneity, but a decent plan might just get us out and enjoying a fun meal again.
Aside from planning, there are some other factors carers consider when considering a meal out, including energy levels (ours and the person we care for), and ‘quiet times’ for example.
If all this feels like too much right now - check out other fun dining experiences below. Or our Carers guide to impossible or hard things may help (when the time is right!). Otherwise, here are carers' top tips for dining out:
1. Phone ahead and discuss access requirements.
“We always phone and ask if the restaurant has booth seating, which we find easier with our disabled daughter, as we can sit either side of her and keep her safe - and entertained! She won’t stay seated on a chair.”
2. Look at website pictures or do a site visit first.
It'll help us understand how much space there is for wheelchairs, including the table height and if the wheelchair will fit under comfortably.
“I like to go and visit ahead of booking, to see exactly how many chairs I’ll have to move out of the way to get the wheelchair in!”
3. Find out the toilet arrangements.
“Our son is mobile, but if the toilets are all upstairs he just can’t get to them and he’s too big to carry these days. We don’t necessarily need a disabled toilet, but we do need them downstairs”
4. Ask the restaurant to have the table ready for the wheelchair - by removing the extra seat before you get there.
“We feel such a spectacle if the staff have to arrange the furniture after we arrive. It’s much nicer when they’ve thought to create the necessary space for the wheelchair, before we get there.”
5. Phone ahead and discuss any food requirements, such as if you need to bring some of your own food, due to a special diet. If the other guest(s) is ordering from the menu, most places are happy to accommodate.
6. Book an early table if you want to avoid the crowds.
7. Choose a day or time of day, when we know we’re more likely to have the emotional and physical energy we need to make it a success.
“Our more successful meals out are when I’ve had a good night’s sleep. I’m more able to see the funny side of challenging moments and can enjoy myself - enjoy rather than endure”
Carers tips for fun dining at home
1. Get a take-away! With the likes of delivery services such as Deliveroo and Uber Eats, getting a takeaway is becoming much easier for many of us, with more choices.
2. Order a ‘dining experience’. Some restaurants send out cooking kits or “cook along" kits - where you can join in over social media (such as Instagram) - and cook along with the chef.
“We’ve had two orders from the Italian Cornish this year, they now deliver nationwide via DHL and the food is, obviously, Italian and really yummy”
“I’ve done a few cook-alongs over Instagram with a friend. A fun way to get cooking something scrumptious again. They send you all the ingredients and instructions, and you follow along online too. A good giggle.”
3. Order a meal kit from a supermarket. A little easier than cooking from scratch and a little cheaper than a takeaway.
4. Host a supper with friends. Everyone can bring a plate or take in turns to bring a warming pot of stew to share.
“I host a monthly supper in our garden - around the fire pit when it gets cold. We take it in turns to bring the food. It’s been such a lovely way to stay in touch without the logistical challenges.”
5. Host a themed dinner party at home. Choose a certain type of food and maybe a soundtrack to go alongside. We might even get a little dressed up.
“Since lockdown, we've been having dinner parties at least once a month at home, just us three. We sometimes have a theme such as an ABBA one or a Kylie one where we listen to their music whilst we eat 😋”
Tips for those of us who can’t face either
If all of the above feels a little beyond you right now, then there is nothing wrong with simply doing nothing. You may feel differently in a week or a month or six months. That’s OK. Keep this blog up your sleeve, for when you feel ready.
Food can be a very emotive topic for some of us. We can experience feelings of loss and frustration around meal times now. For those of us in this situation, it may be we can focus on finding some moments of fun in some other way.
We’ve also pulled together some other food-related ideas, that might help:
Our Carers guide to impossible or hard things may help with some tools for tackling something that feels hard (when the time is right!).
And if all else fails, perhaps a simple takeaway, sat in your car is enough to give a break from cooking and a change of scenery.
“Meals out are tricky, but fish and chips in the car with a wonderful sunset view are our treat.”
And remember, we don’t have to feel so alone with our worries and frustrations. Our community of unpaid carers are supporting each other night and day, and we’re all welcome to join.