DIMENSIONS Summer 1999


by Julie Cleveland

Sue McCurry has an enormous compassion for the people she works with; helping older adults with dementia and their caregivers is what she enjoys most about her work at the UW School of Nursing. As an assistant research Professor in the Department of Psychosocial and Community Health, McCurry is interested in studying the factors associated with successful aging, for both normal older adults and persons living with dementia. She also counsels people with Alzheimer's disease and their families at the UW Geriatric and Family Services Clinic. Whether in the clinic or doing research, McCurry's patience and thoughtfulness, as well as her commitment and diligence, are always present in her work.

For several years, Sue has been primarily involved in two research projects. The KAME Project is an international study comparing the different rates of occurrence and types of dementia found among Japanese persons living in Seattle, Hawaii, and Japan. This study hopes to determine the extent to which cross-cultural differences in dementia rates are due to cultural, genetic, or environmental causes. The Reducing Disability in Alzheimer's Disease (RDAD) study is a clinical intervention designed to assess whether a combination of exercise, caregiver education, and behavior management training can help reduce disability in people with AD, by reducing risk for falls and injury, need for psychiatric medication, or premature institutionalization. "Alzheimer's disease research is like trying to put together a puzzle," says McCurry, "You have to figure out what it all means, what story the data have to tell."

Sue has recently received a career development award grant from the National Institute of Mental Health which will enable her to study sleep problems among Alzheimer's disease patients who are living in the community. This five-year study will look at the impact of several treatments, including sleep hygiene (such as having regular bed and rising times, avoiding caffeine at night), behavior management (such as restricting afternoon naps), and somatic interventions (such as increasing light and exercise) on the sleep quality of people with AD.

McCurry has a master's degree in biology and worked for 12 years as a field aquatic biologist. She decided to make a career change after working as a hospice volunteer with people who were terminally ill. She received a master's degree in rehabilitation counseling, and then went on to complete a Ph.D. in clinical psychology at the University of Nevada at Reno. She has worked at the University of Washington since her graduation in 1991.

Outside of work, McCurry enjoys many hobbies including gardening, singing in her church choir, playing the piano, and exercising in the great outdoors. However, her foremost delight comes from spending time playing with her 5-year-old son and watching him grow. She'd be glad to show you a picture when you drop by!

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