Dr. Cheryl Dye, professor in Public health sciences and Director of Clemson University’s Institute for Engaged Aging, has mentored Creative Inquiry teams for nine years. She began mentoring a Creative Inquiry as co-mentor with previous Provost Dori Helms in 2005. After her work with Helms, Dye led teams in exploring ways to improve quality of life for older adults in the project, Nature Experiences for Older Adults. Her current project, Effects of Thoughts and Sensory Experiences on Heart Rate Variability of Older Adults, addresses the needs of family caregivers of those with Alzheimer’s disease and their care recipients. This project was created in response to the overwhelming number of people with Alzheimer’s disease in South Carolina. While there is no cure for this disease, steps can be taken to educate caregivers on best practices to care for their loves ones while maintaining their own health. “[Our goals are to] reduce the stress and burden experienced by family caregivers of those with dementia and to increase cognitive and social engagement of their care recipient with early to mid-stage dementia,” Dye explained.
“Dr. Dye is very enthusiastic about the health of the elderly (specifically dementia patients and their caregivers), and it was inspiring to be able to see that from a professor. It changed my views on geriatrics…”
Since the spring of 2014, when this Creative Inquiry began, 37 students have participated on the team from different majors and class standings with the majority of students from health sciences. By participating in this Creative Inquiry team, students become certified in human subject protection and research protocols and gain experience in collecting data on how heart rate variability can be enhanced through various stress management strategies. Students also gain valuable knowledge they can take with them beyond their years in college.
“Dr. Dye is very enthusiastic about the health of the elderly (specifically dementia patients and their caregivers), and it was inspiring to be able to see that from a professor. It changed my views on geriatrics,” wrote a student on an anonymous evaluation. Another said, “Dr. Dye has an unmatched ability to not only educate students but those in the community as well. Through CI, she provided me with many opportunities to grow as a student and future healthcare provider.” There is no doubt that the Creative Inquiry team members are passionate about the work and are led by an even more dedicated and compassionate professor.
The team has served family caregivers and care recipients with Alzheimer’s disease in the Anderson, Oconee and Pickens county area but has now found a permanent home for their program, Caring for Others, Caring for Self, at the Episcopal Church of the Ascension in Seneca, SC. Dye and a local community group are currently raising funds to sustain the program in the community, which means that many families facing the formidable challenges of Alzheimer’s disease in Anderson, Oconee and Pickens counties will continue to benefit from the work of her Creative Inquiry teams for years to come.
Barbara J. Speziale