Leading-Age North Carolina Recognizes Pat Beyle and Casey Jones for Excellence in Aging
Pat Beyle describes herself as being in the “fourth quarter” of life. That’s much more preferable to her than another alternative moniker. “Call me elderly, and I won’t be your friend,” she laughs. “It’s really not a denial; it’s just such a loaded word. I suppose I’m old. Eighty-eight is probably old, but I [like to] talk about a future. I have a future if I’m in my fourth quarter.”
If Beyle is in the fourth quarter, she’s still playing as hard as ever. Earlier this month, the longtime Member at The Cedars of Chapel Hill joined staff member Casey Jones in winning a pair of prestigious annual honors from LeadingAge North Carolina. Beyle won the Excellence in Innovation Award, while Jones won the Excellence in Service Award.
LeadingAge North Carolina, based in Raleigh, is part of a national nonprofit association that oversees 6,000 member organizations “dedicated to expanding the world of possibilities for aging,” according to the organization’s website. The awards spotlight the remarkable work that Beyle and Jones are doing at The Cedars.
Service Award: Casey Jones’ Compassion in Memory Care
Casey Jones, who started working at The Cedars in 2015, is a licensed practical nurse in the memory care unit. She primarily serves Members who are experiencing memory-loss conditions such as dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. “I try to be a voice for them because they don’t always have a voice,” Jones says.
Whether it’s gathering groups to watch classic movies such as The Sound of Music or The Wizard of Oz, showing sporting events on TV, playing oldies music or having Members help her with different decorative themes, Jones puts her compassion and creativity to work to give them extra care and love.
Jones remembers the moment she learned of her award. Her supervisor, Director of Nursing Lisa McCormick, called Jones into her office and presented her with flowers. “I was just so excited,” Jones says. “I don’t need the spotlight. But I was overjoyed.”
“Casey Jones being honored by LeadingAge was well-deserved and exciting,” McCormick says. “It is always wonderful to have such an impressive person working with our Members. However, when acknowledged by an organization such as LeadingAge, it confirms what we already know: that Casey is truly an exceptional nurse and person.”
Innovation Award: Pat Beyle’s Excellence in Bringing Change
Pat Beyle, a piano major in college and a longtime choral music teacher in the Chapel Hill- Carrboro City school system, moved to The Cedars 13 years ago when her late husband started experiencing dementia.
In 2015, Beyle and three other Members started a musical comedy revue called “Hot Stuff,” styled after the old TV sketch comedy series, “Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In.” The shows were such a success that the quartet produced three sequels and took the show on the road to other local continuing care retirement communities. At Carolina Meadows, Beyle recalls, “There was a poster that said, ‘This is Triple-Bypass Hot Stuff.’ And we heard one woman say, ‘I’m not going to another medical lecture.’ And we thought, ‘Oh, come in, lovebug. We’ll blow your doors off.'”
In 2019, Beyle’s son-in-law, a documentary filmmaker, filmed the final “Hot Stuff” show, which PBS included in a documentary, “Show Must Go On!” in 2022.
Finishing Touches and Empowering Conversations
After Beyle’s husband passed away in 2018, Beyle wanted to help others with end-of-life planning, a process she found quite challenging at times. So in the spring of 2020, she convened a half-dozen others to brainstorm ideas about how to address the difficult but important topic at The Cedars. As Beyle says, “I’m not afraid to kick tires.”
Beyle’s team quickly developed an extensive list of subject matter ideas. They decided to break it down into seasons, like a TV show, and named it Finishing Touches. The first season of Finishing Touches, which ran from August to November 2020, featured a series of six lectures from professionals, including an estate planning lawyer, a legacy writer and experts in palliative and hospice care.
After attendees watched some thought-provoking movies in season two, the third season literally brought a whole new flavor to Beyle’s brainchild. Her daughter-in-law and grandson, who are in the medical field, introduced her to the Death Café. This international nonprofit organization gathers people together “to eat cake, drink tea and discuss death” to “increase awareness of death to help people make the most of their (finite) lives,” according to the Café’s website. Inspired, Beyle added the Finishing Touches Café to the monthly program.
Currently, Finishing Touches is in its fourth season. The group meets on the fourth Monday of every month in The Cedars’ auditorium. The group, typically 25-30 people, listens to a guest speaker from 3:30 to 4:00 p.m. and then transitions into café time from 4:00 to 5:00 p.m. Members enjoy refreshments prepared by The Cedars’ hospitality staff and Members discuss relevant topics in a circle format, aided by a facilitator. The circle discussions are marked by great dialogue, lots of laughter and some tears. “You get an array of emotions,” Beyle says, “and that’s OK. That’s great. You get people who lost somebody or are losing someone. But mostly, we’re attending to ourselves.”
Recently, Finishing Touches welcomed an in-home funeral director as its guest speaker and visited a conservation-minded burial site in Cedar Grove called Bluestem. In June, the group plans to visit a Hillsborough site that offers aquamation (a.k.a. water cremation), an eco-friendly alternative to traditional burial or cremation.
On June 26, the group will welcome a hospice representative from the University of North Carolina. Brandy Watson, the Director of Home Care at The Cedars, will discuss independent living in September. An advanced-care planning discussion is also on the calendar. “Pat brings so much joy to our community, inspiring our Members and staff to see the fourth quarter in life as one of deep understanding, empowerment and endless growth,” says The Cedars Program Director Tara Pierce.
Continuing Impact in the Fourth Quarter
Beyle is grateful for the LeadingAge honor but cannot rest on her laurels. “When they gave me the award, I said, ‘But I’m not finished.’ There’s a lot more to do,” she says.
The fourth season of Finishing Touches is scheduled to end in October, and season five will likely begin in January 2024. Until then, Beyle plans to keep the café humming with food, drinks and topical experts. “I have a list as long as my arm of people that I’d like to have come talk,” she says.
More than anything, Beyle feels good about helping her friends and fellow Members navigate a complex, difficult subject and regain some control in life’s fourth quarter. “It’s a reward to see one person say, ‘You know, this is a really good idea. I might even try to write my own obituary,'” Beyle says, laughing.
Besides leading Finishing Touches, Beyle started a member-based monthly newsletter called The Connection that published its 38th issue in May. She also directs a choral group at The Cedars and hosts performances where she sings and plays her autoharp, a la former country music star “Mother” Maybelle Carter. “Nobody has thrown any vegetables at me yet,” Beyle says.
Indeed, Beyle is thriving in the fourth quarter. “I’m not sure about overtime, but we’ll see,” she laughed.
Embracing a Future of Positive Aging: Pat Beyle and Casey Jones Leave a Lasting Impact
Ultimately, Pat Beyle and Casey Jones exemplify excellence in aging care and have impacted the community at The Cedars. Their recognition by LeadingAge North Carolina underscores the importance of their innovative approaches and compassionate service.
Beyle’s dedication to empowering conversations through initiatives like “Finishing Touches” and Jones’ commitment to advocating for memory care residents are commendable. Their contributions inspire positive aging, redefining what it means to thrive in the fourth quarter of life. As Beyle aptly states, “I’m not finished.”
With their continued dedication and passion, they are poised to make even greater strides in aging care, providing support, compassion and meaningful experiences for older adults.
For more information on LeadingAge North Carolina and its mission, visit their website at www.leadingagenc.org. Check out Hot Stuff: Not To Be Missed to learn more about the musical comedy revue that Pat Beyle and three other Members started at The Cedars.