Caring for the Caregivers: ARC of Hancock County hosts self-care nights, speaker series

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Massage therapist Marlaina Pertile provides some pampering for behavior therapist Chauvaughn Woods, who attended a Mousse & Massages event hosted by ARC of Hancock County.

Submitted photo

GREENFIELD — Liz Subrin knows that caregivers for those with special needs can use a little TLC.

That’s why she created a series of self-care events through the ARC of Hancock County, a local nonprofit dedicated to improving the lives of individuals with disabilities.

Subrin, who has a 10-year-old stepdaughter with special needs, was hired as the nonprofit’s new executive director in January.

On Feb. 26 she invited caregivers to enjoy some pampering in the form of chocolate mousse and seated massages at the Greenfield Area Chamber of Commerce building.

On Valentine’s Day, she encouraged caregivers to enjoy coffee with one another at the home of God’s Embrace Indy, a nonprofit organization that trains and employs individuals with disabilities.

“For a new series it’s going pretty well,” said Subrin, who is also planning a speaker series this month featuring therapists and doctors, as well as an aerobic dance program for individuals in March or April.

Chauvaughn Woods, a behavior therapist and program manager at Chapple House Therapies in Greenfield, was among those who enjoyed a night of pampering Monday night.

“It was a nice event and the massage felt great,” said Woods, who said the benefits go much deeper than that.

“It felt good to be seen and appreciated by others for the hard work we do with kids or any individuals with disabilities. Most days you just do what you have to do without thinking about it, so when someone is going out of their way to show how much they appreciate you, it just warms your heart,” she said.

Woods especially loves the fact that parents of individuals with disabilities are supported by such events.

“As a parent you don’t really get the break that somebody as an employee would, so I think it’s very important that they also take care of themselves and pat themselves on the back for all the hard work they do nonstop around the clock,” she said.

Tristan McKing attended Monday’s event with his adult daughter, Jill.

“Liz organized a thoughtful, relaxing event where people were able to connect and share information and support each other,” he said.

Subrin knows first-hand how essential self care for caregivers can be.

“As a parent with a child with special needs, I saw there was a need for some self care for those who care for those with special needs, whether it’s a parent or other caregiver,” she said. “There can be a lot of burnout, so we are trying to aid in that and help give everyone some ways to relax and spend a few minutes just to enjoy themselves.”

Subrin also knows it can be challenging for caregivers to get some time to themselves, which is why children and others they care for are invited to come along.

Her goal is to host more self care events each month, and to eventually provide childcare “once we can find a way to facilitate that. We would need a good location and trained volunteers,” she said.

Subrin, a professional grant writer and fundraising event planner, took over as the ARC of Hancock County’s part-time executive director in January.

Her predecessor, Dennis Porter — who led the nonprofit for 20 years — still volunteers with the organization.

Subrin said there’s a special bond among caregivers of children and adults with special needs.

The ARC’s self care events are designed not only to provide caregivers a break, she said, but with much needed camaraderie.

“What we’re meant to be doing is to be advocating and aiding our individuals with disabilities, but also doing the same for those who support them,” she said.

Subrin’s 10-year-old stepdaughter, Margaux, has a rare disease that requires extra care. Since the little girl was 4 years old, Subrin has been facilitating with therapists to plan out her weekly schedule. She stayed home with Margaux full-time for two years before her stepdaughter started school, so she knows how demanding life for a full-time caregiver can be.

“It’s hard to be a parent, but it’s even harder with a child or adult that requires 24/7 care,” she said.

“You are never really relaxed. You’re always thinking and planning and worrying about something that might happen in the middle of the night. You can never really sleep soundly because you have to make sure your child is okay,” said Subrin, who frequently checks a motion sensor camera in her stepdaughter’s room throughout the night.

“It just never stops. You’re never given time for a break and if you are, it’s pretty minimal,” she said. “So we’re hopeful these kinds of (self care events) will gain interest and people come out to support us once we figure out how to provide childcare,” she said.

“Having their kids in the same location with trained care providers would be the ideal situation, so they feel safe enough to relax even if it’s just an hour, in order to take that break,” she said. “We know you don’t want to burn out. We don’t want to take it out on their kids or adults. It’s not their fault.”

Subrin is excited to work on new programming for ARC of Hancock County this year, including more self care events and the new speaker series.

“We’re hoping this speaker series can provide more insight for our parents,” said the director, who said speakers will address a wide range of topics, from potty training to navigating the complex world of Medicaid waivers.

“We also plan to have developmental pediatricians and an endocrinologist speak as well,” she said.

For more information about ARC of Hancock County, or to volunteer, visit thearcofhancockcounty.com or call 317-462-3727.