Taking a Loved One to a Party When They’re Undergoing Chemo

By Stacey Feintuch
Reviewed by Lillie Shockney, RN, BS, MAS

The party invitation arrives in the mail, but you toss it aside. You’d love to mingle with old and new friends and eat a meal outside the confines of your kitchen, but it’s too much for you and your loved one undergoing chemo treatment to go to the grocery store, let alone a party.

Don’t be a party pooper! Instead of avoiding gatherings outside the house, embrace them. They’re a great way for both you and your loved one to get some needed relaxation and meet up with friends and family.

And socializing has some powerful health benefits, especially for those with cancer. For example, breast cancer patients with 10 or more close friends are four times more likely to survive than those with just a handful of friends, according to Harvard researchers. Studies have also shown that social support can decrease the risk of depression and high blood pressure and help prevent dementia.

Before you RSVP, just make sure your loved one isn’t vulnerable to infection during the time the party will be held. Once you’ve cleared the date, head out and have some fun by keeping these pointers in mind:

In advance

  • Find out how many people will be there. If you’re worried your loved one won’t be able to handle lots of stimulation, see whether you can wait for the final head count before responding. If you learn that a lot of people will be there, ask your partner, parent or child whether they want to attend.
  • Inquire about the menu to see whether it meets your loved one’s dietary needs. If not, bring your own chemo-friendly food.
  • Assess the seating situation. If it sounds as if the chairs may be uncomfortable, such as a backless bench, bring your own chairs. If your loved one is in a wheelchair, make sure the party location’s entranceways are wide enough for the wheelchair to fit.
  • If the party is outdoors, ask whether the yard has a shady spot, so your loved one won’t overheat. If it doesn’t, take an umbrella. Also, pack sunscreen to prevent sunburn.
  • Decide what's off-limits. Make decisions about what you or your loved one will say if asked about health issues. You both may want to say, “Today is for fun and not for chemotherapy talk. So let’s just talk about non-cancer stuff like kids, work, etc.”

At the event

  • Watch the heat. Position your relative away from any hot cooking devices, such as a grill, to prevent them from being overheated or burned accidentally.
  • Safeguard hearing. Protect your loved one’s hearing by sitting far away from loud musical equipment, such as an audio-system speaker.
  • Have an evacuation plan. Know where the restrooms are located, in case you need to take your loved one there.
  • Keep hydration on hand. If the party is outdoors on a warm day, have a glass of water nearby. Avoid giving your loved one alcohol, which is dehydrating and may not mix well with their medications.
  • Get backup. Ask others to watch your loved one so you can mingle and eat.
  • Monitor your loved one’s behavior. If they seem overheated, restless or bored, leave early—your host will understand.
Published March 2014

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