One of the most important ways we mark important occasions is with a celebration. And in most cultures, celebrations include food. Even funerals in many cultures include a gathering of loved ones that usually includes food.
Food is more than just providing sustenance. Food is part of our culture, our heritage, our family rituals and very much part of the way we show and receive love and comfort. So, what happens when participating in those beloved rituals becomes difficult? Is there a way to discreetly manage eating issues?
It’s no surprise that as we (and loved ones) age or become more limited due to an illness or injury, it can become harder to do the things we used to take for granted. It gets harder to get out and about. It can become harder to eat and drink. Even getting dressed for a day out can become a chore. The result is missed family gatherings and missed opportunities for socializing with friends and loved ones. The result is isolation.
Staying active and involved with our family and friends is vital to both physical and emotional well-being. In fact, seniors who are socially involved tend to report more satisfaction with their lives and tend to be healthier than their less engaged peers. And, simply being with friends and loved ones just boosts our mood and makes us feel good.
If you find yourself or a loved one avoiding gatherings and events due to eating issues, don’t despair. With a little planning you CAN attend those events, feel confident and enjoy the time with your family and friends.
Q & A
You may have noticed your loved one not attending functions quite as often as before. You may have seen them struggling with mealtimes or with getting around comfortably. You may not quite know what the issue is but you want to help. Or it may be you struggling.
It’s OK to ask and it’s OK to share. Expect they might be just a bit embarrassed or avoid answering right away. Facing the changes in independence that age or illness can bring may be hard to admit.
Sometimes, a simple, “What can I do to make the experience easier for you” can mean so much. They may not know that there are tips and tools and workarounds that can make the difference between missing out and enjoying the time spent with family.
Gently offer to help them choose the right tool and accommodations. They may not know that things like adult adaptive utensils, adult bibs and other items are available. They may assume they will look childish. They may not know that family members are there to help and want to spend time with them. Sometimes all it takes is someone to reach out.
Check Out the Venue
If possible, get some information in advance about where you’ll be. Is it a relaxed, informal gathering like a backyard BBQ or is it a formal sit-down dinner in a fancy restaurant? Knowing in advance where you’ll be can help when you’re planning.
For example, if it is a fancy sit-down meal, you may need to coordinate seating with your host. Sometimes sitting at the end of a table is helpful if assistance with utensils is needed. Do you need to bring things like a folding table or adaptive utensils? Those plastic forks are hard to hold.
If it’s a backyard, is it easily accessible? How easy will moving about be? Are there steps to navigate? Where are the restrooms if a clean-up is needed? Things that many folks take for granted become important to know when planning for a meal out.
Dress in Style
Don’t worry about spillage. Classy Pal has you covered! Encourage your loved one (or you) to dress for the event you’ll be attending. If it’s a formal dinner, don’t be afraid to dress in your finest. Having some adaptive needs doesn’t mean you cannot dress in a way that makes you feel sophisticated and confident.
If you have some worries about spilling, make sure you take along a bib. Not just any old bib but one made especially for adults. Classy Pal bibs for adults are made with the mature, sophisticated adult in mind. You can choose from styles to go with any outfit from comfy casual to formal. Friends will all want to know where they can get that fabulous accessory!
Sometimes, going out in public – even just to a relative’s home – can be anxiety-provoking. The “what if’s” start whirling around. And they can stop even the most outgoing person in their tracks.
- “What if” I have some trouble getting around?
- “What if” people stare at me?
- “What if” I make a fool of myself?
- “What if” I need help?
These concerns are very real and can be very powerful. If your loved one is apprehensive about going to that family dinner or outing with friends, it’s ok to ask what their worries are. Once you know, you can identity things that can alleviate some of those nasty “what if’s”.
If the event is in a public place or large venue, it may be more comfortable to be seated at a table more along the periphery of the room as opposed to a table smack in the middle of the dining area. That’s nerve-wracking for most people! It’s okay to ask your loved one where they prefer to be seated.
If the worry is spilling, choose a Classy Pal adult bib for the occasion. Take along any adaptive utensils like plates, cups or cutlery that make mealtime easier. Always choose adaptive items that are made for adults. You want your loved one to feel like the confident and sophisticated adult they are. And, these items are often great conversation pieces and can help to “break the ice” when feeling nervous.
Another worry is needing help. This can be especially worrisome if the event is more of a public or social event rather than a family event. It can be hard to ask relative strangers for help. Whenever possible, have a designated person who can be available to discreetly lend a hand if needed. They may never be called upon but having someone we know is there can alleviate so much unnecessary worry.
Have A Plan
Food, family and fun all go together so seamlessly that it can be easy to overlook the struggle someone may have. If someone you love is routinely missing events, reach out to them. Offer support and let them know you love and value their presence at family functions. Have a plan to include your loved one.
Having a plan means everyone knows what to expect. You can all relax and enjoy spending time together. If a situation arises or your loved one needs help, it’s all in the plan.
Maintaining connection to family is one of the most important needs we have especially as we enter our mature years. Remembering and including loved ones just takes a little planning and a little caring. The returns are immeasurable in the time you get to spend together and the memories you will make.