How Can I Make My Father's Parkinson's Easier on Him When We Are Dining Out?
"My father has Parkinson’s, which makes his hands shake and his gait impaired. Some family members comment and strangers stare at him. He has become a bit sensitive about eating out and going places. I sometimes wonder if restaurants even want him to come in. What do you think I should do? What should I say to Dad? Is there any way I can help make Dad’s Parkinson’s easier on him when we are dining out?" - READER
People struggle with appearing to be different, be it size, height, hair color, or some other physical characteristic or abnormality. We have a tendency to believe that everyone is watching us. We do watch each other, in fact, but the majority of it is harmless and without any malicious intent. Humans are hard-wired this way. Think of a traffic accident on the expressway. "Gaper blocks" can stretch for miles!
Everyone should be able to enjoy a meal out with family. Yes, we are not all beautiful and perfect specimens of the human race, but that is okay. There is plenty you can do to make your father feel more comfortable dining out, or dining in for that matter.
My recommendation is to dine wherever you like. If it makes Dad feel more comfortable to have his back to other diners in the restaurant, then call ahead and arrange it with the hostess. If he has trouble cutting food, do it for him discreetly. If you are concerned about a mess, position his napkin so that it will collect spills. If the restaurant only has tiny paper napkins, bring your own cloth napkins to provide better coverage. Colored napkins help because they can match the color of his clothing, making them more difficult for others to see.
One item that some individuals with Parkinson’s find helpful is weighted silverware. If your father uses that type of silverware, bring it along. Travel cups and plates with “scooped” edges are also worth considering. Any restaurant should allow you to bring these items, as they will make his dining experience more comfortable.
While in the restaurant, simply go about your business with father, caring for him when necessary and allowing independence when possible. You can make dining out less stressful for both of you if you are calm and confident throughout. Avoid looking about nervously as if something unusual is going on. Be attentive and enjoy Dad’s company, as that behavior will draw less attention and more admiration than worrying about what other diners might think. Remember, your father simply wants to feel normal.
Your father deserves to enjoy dining out with you. Take reasonable steps to make him comfortable and do your best to ignore anyone that may be staring. Enjoy your time together.
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