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Living Your Best Life Speaker Series


St. James NEST is offering a Senior Living Speaker Series to all residents of St. James. The programs will be held at the St. James Community Center in Room A and are FREE to attend, but we strongly suggest you pre-register due to limited seating capacity, in order to ensure you are able to participate. Below are descriptions for each program; please click on the title of the program to go to the registration page for each event. We hope to see you there!

When Your Past Becomes Your Future

October 25, 2021** - 3:00 - 4:30 pm

**Please note that we had originally scheduled this program for September 28th, but had to postpone due to a medical emergency. Thanks for your understanding.

In case you missed this presentation, you can review the program handout here.

This session will provide an overview of Alzheimer’s Disease and other dementias. You’ll learn the importance of capturing the life background information of the Alzheimer patient and how to use it to reduce stress of daily living activities, as well as techniques to identify challenging behaviors and how best to handle them. You’ll also learn about cognitive appropriate activities for physical, mental and social stimulation, as well as the value of music therapy.

Speaker:  Ann LaReau, Certified Dementia Practitioner

Ann LaReau began working with persons with Alzheimer’s 30 years ago as a volunteer at an Alzheimer’s unit in Michigan where she served as the Vice President of Community Affairs for the Grand Rapids Chamber of Commerce. After moving to Wilmington, Ann became a trained CNA and Activity Director while working on the fundraising effort to build the Lower Cape Fear Hospice Life Care Center.

Working with the elderly is Ann’s passion. She is trained to provide Alzheimer’s care by the NC Alzheimer’s Association and is certified by Teepa Snow of Alzheimer’s NC to teach the course issuing CEUs. She conducts training classes to professionals and family members caring for those with Alzheimer’s, facilitates Alzheimer’s Support Group Meetings, is one of only three persons in the area accredited to present the Virtual Dementia Tour – another teaching tool – and is certified to provide training for family members of those with Alzheimer’s. In 2018, Ann earned the credential as a Certified Dementia Practitioner. For more information, visit


Estate and Long Term Care Planning in North Carolina

November 30, 2021 - 3:00 - 4:30 pm

In case you missed this presentation, you can review Kara's PowerPoint presentation here.

Estate planning offers a plan to provide and protect your loved ones when you are no longer alive.  Essential to estate planning is the ability to transfer assets to heirs with an eye toward creating the smallest possible tax burden for them. An estate plan that implements asset-protection employs legal strategies, put in place before a lawsuit or claim arises, that can deter a potential claimant or help prevent the seizure of your assets after a judgment. Estate plans that involve asset protection may often be geared toward planning for long term care needs.  Long term care is notoriously expensive for seniors and their families. As America’s senior population increases and seniors are living longer, there is a greater likelihood that a person may need long-term care. Planning for any long term care is a gift that you and your loved ones will appreciate.

Get more information about these important topics from an experienced Elder Law attorney. This session will help you understand essential estate planning tools, asset-protection and long-term care planning; Powers of Attorney and how to determine if yours is “hot” enough; Wills versus Trusts and determining which one makes the most sense for you; how estate plans from out of state impact you in North Carolina; the best steps to take now to protect your assets for long term care; and how to find and pay for quality long term care.

Speaker:   Kara Gansmann, Attorney at Law

Kara Gansmann is an Attorney and Partner in the Wilmington office of Cranfill Sumner LLP.  She devotes her entire practice to Elder Law and serves as the firm’s Chair of the Elder Law Practice Group. She works with families and seniors in Southeastern North Carolina, providing pragmatic solutions to their legal needs through both advocacy in the courtroom and counseling for long-term care planning. Kara also serves on the North Carolina Bar Association Elder Law & Special Needs section council. Kara earned three degrees from University of North Carolina Wilmington and the University of North Dakota, where she served as Editor in Chief of the North Dakota Law Review and graduated with highest honors among the top of her class. For more information about Kara, visit the Cranfill Sumner website.


Hospice Care vs. Palliative Care - Which One to Choose?

March 29, 2022 - 3:00 - 4:30 pm

Both palliative care and hospice care provide comfort. But palliative care can begin at diagnosis, and at the same time as treatment. Hospice care begins after treatment of the disease is stopped and when it is clear that the person is not going to survive the illness. This session will discuss what each service offers, when is the right time for each service, and how to have the discussion of those services with patients and their loved ones.

Speaker: Beth Fields, Registered Nurse and Liaison, Liberty Home Care and Hospice

Beth Fields is a Registered Nurse and Liaison with Liberty Home Care and Hospice. She’s passionate about providing quality healthcare to people in need of those services. Beth graduated from nursing school in May 2000 and began working at Columbus County Hospital where she cared for patients there for two years. She and her husband were in the process of building their home in Brunswick County when a nurse friend suggested she try home health. In December 2001, Beth accepted a position with Liberty Home Care and Hospice in Brunswick County. She cared for patients as a field nurse for almost 2 years and then accepted a supervisory position as a Patient Care Coordinator. She held that position for about 15 years until she accepted her current position as liaison. She will celebrate her 20 year anniversary with Liberty in December.  She enjoys meeting people and having the opportunity to educate them on services available that might be beneficial to them.  


Mom and Dad Need Care. Where Do I Start?

April 26, 2022 3:00 - 4:30 pm

(Postponed from orginal scheduled date - January 25, 2022 - 3:00 - 4:30 pm)

While the purpose of St. James NEST is to help our Members stay safely in their homes as long as possible, there’s always the chance that a currently active adult may need to consider other living options at some point in their lives. In this session, we will explore the differences between types of facilities - independent living, assisted living, memory care, skilled nursing, rehab, continuum of care communities and home care options, including medical and non-medical. 

Also to be discussed is what prompts families to think about needing to find care options for themselves or their elderly loved ones and what the best care option would be will be discussed. Payor sources and Medicaid will also be reviewed. Now is the right time to be thinking about this topic - before it becomes an emergency situation.

Speaker:  Sue Fryt, Eldercare Specialist, Certified Senior Advisor

Susan Fryt has worked in the senior healthcare industry for over 25 years. She has served seniors and their families as Director of Community Relations within both assisted living communities and home healthcare agencies. Susan started the New Hanover Healthcare Marketing Network group in 2004 to open lines of communication among professionals who serve the elderly population in our area. 

For the last 12 years Susan has worked with Elder Law attorneys and their clients to assist in finding the appropriate care or placement for their senior family member. She finds the proper level of care such as home care, assisted living, memory care, skilled nursing, for each client based on his or her specific needs; their health, finances, location, whether they are coming from a hospital setting, their own home, or moving to the area to be near family. She functions as a liaison between the client and family and the doctor, facilities, agencies to ensure a smooth transition.


Senior Fraud Schemes - How to Avoid Them

May 31, 2022 - 3:00 - 5:00 pm

Scammers cheat seniors out of approximately $2.9 billion annually, according to the Senate Special Committee on Aging. No one is exempt from being a potential target of a fraud, and many con artists prey upon seniors who are well-educated and have above-average incomes. They use sophisticated, convincing sales pitches that sound legitimate, making it easy for anyone to become a target. U.S. Secret Service Senior Special Agent, Stanley Crowder, will share with you what you need to know and how you can protect yourself and your family and Holly Pilson of the Area Agency on Aging (Cape Fear Council of Governments) will share how to avoid getting caught up in Medicare Fraud.

Speaker(s): Stanley W. Crowder, Senior Special Agent, United States Secret Service; Holly Henderson Pilson, Director, Area Agency on Aging, Cape Fear Council of Governments

Senior Special Agent Stanley Crowder began his law enforcement career as a Deputy Sheriff in 1986 with the New Hanover County Sheriff’s Office in Wilmington, NC, and served in various capacities to include patrol, custody, detectives and the Emergency Response Tactical Team.  SSA Crowder is a state certified firearms instructor and a certified hostage/crisis negotiator.

In 2000, SSA Crowder was trained as a Special Agent in the U.S. Secret Service.  He  was assigned to the Miami Field Office where he served for approximately four years in various criminal squads. In 2002, SSA Crowder became a member of the Electronic Crimes Special Agent Program (ECSAP) and is a founding member of the Miami Electronic Crimes Task Force (MECTF).

SSA Crowder received specialized training pertaining to the forensic analysis of electronic storage media. He conducts computer forensic examinations on electronic media suspected of being utilized in the commission of various crimes.  Additionally, he conducts presentations to various law enforcement, civic, and community groups on the latest trends and tactics criminals are utilizing to defraud citizens, especially senior citizens, in an attempt to educate citizens on how to avoid becoming a victim. 

Holly Henderson Pilson has always had a love for older adults; receiving a bachelor’s degree in Sociology with a minor in Gerontology from the University of North Carolina at Wilmington. She interned with the New Hanover County Department of Aging in college and became the manager of the Home Community Care Block Grant In-Home Aide Program with a local home

care agency after graduation. Holly has been employed by the Cape Fear Area Agency on Aging for 22 years, starting as the Aging Program Developer then transitioning into the Caregiver Resource Specialist in 2001 after Congress passed and funded the National Family Caregiver Support Program under the Older American’s Act. She enjoyed helping caregivers navigate the aging support system, facilitating support groups, managing caregiver grants and providing caregiver education in that role. In December, 2020, she was promoted to the position of Director of the Area Agency on Aging.


*Room capacity at the St. James Community Center is limited, so you are strongly encouraged to pre-register for any event you want to attend. Click on the link to each individual program and you can register from that page. Please plan to wear a mask; all CDC protocols are being followed by St. James NEST.