Mercy Joseph

Date of Award


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Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) Nursing




The purpose of this study was to explore how faith-based leaders cared for community-dwelling older adults in a natural disaster. This research focused on Hurricane Sandy, which affected Long Island, New York, in October 2012. The research question was: How do faith-based leaders care for community-dwelling older adults affected by a natural disaster, such as Hurricane Sandy? Natural disasters are often unexpected and can cause disruption, trauma, loss, and devastation of communities. A review of the literature identified that local faith-based leaders have a major role in the recovery process before, during, and after a natural disaster. Community-dwelling older adults have special needs after a natural disaster (due to comorbidities, special medications, lifesaving equipment that needs power to operate) and may rely on their own communities for support. Faith-based leaders may also play a crucial role in the recovery and healing process. There is a lack of research on the process of faith-based leaders caring for community-dwelling older adults in a natural disaster. This qualitative study utilized the grounded theoretical approach of Strauss and Corbin (1998). Data were collected through in-depth interviews of a diverse sample of faith-based leaders who cared for community-dwelling older adults during Hurricane Sandy. The interviews were audiotaped, transcribed, coded, and analyzed to determine categories and concepts. This study led to the development of a substantive theory about the process of how faith-based leaders cared for older adults in a natural disaster. This study identified disempowerment as the basic psychosocial problem in the older adults in a natural disaster. The substantive theory that originated from this study is “Faith-Blind Care.” The four major categories that led to faith-blind care were: providing presence to the community by the faith leaders (contacting the community), need-based care, rebuilding the community, and universal brotherhood and sisterhood. All of the categories had multiple concepts that are interrelated. All of these categories are intermingled in such a way that one cannot be separated from another, and faith-blind care is the basic essence of the whole.

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