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Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Spirituality and Elderly, Black, Hurricane Katrina Survivors


Since the publication of my book, "Becoming Dead Right: A Hospice Volunteer in Urban Nursing Homes,” I have spoken to a cross-section of groups from healthcare, academic, and general public arenas. Clergy members have often been in attendance. As a hospice volunteer, I am careful not to impose any religious views on my patients, but patients do request counseling from clergy members about religion and spirituality.

I was reminded of this when I read some research about older, black, Katrina survivors. New Orleans is my hometown, and I am particularly concerned about the slow recovery progress, which I witnessed firsthand again during a recent visit there. As I stated in previous posts, elderly residents who have remained in New Orleans or who have evacuated across the country have often experienced difficult adjustments.

The research I read explored coping strategies of these older evacuees living at a retirement apartment complex in Texas. The study states, “Without exception, the findings indicate that this population coped with Katrina and its aftermath through reliance on a Higher Power.” It explains further that the relationship with a Higher Power was not necessarily connected with church membership. This is important because many people who are spiritual are not religious in the church-going sense.

These are the spiritual coping themes that resulted from a series of interviews with these older Katrina survivors:

“1) regular communication with a supernatural power; 2) miracles of faith through this source of guidance and protection; 3) daily reading of the Bible and various spiritual and devotional materials; and 4) helping others as a consequence of faith and devotion to a supreme being.” During traumatic times, spirituality clearly promotes emotional resilience for many.

You can read more about this University of North Texas study at this website.

Frances Shani Parker, Author
"Becoming Dead Right: A Hospice Volunteer in Urban Nursing Homes”
Hospice and Nursing Homes Blog