Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Teaching & Learning


This study examined the impact of evacuation on the institutionalized elderly following the 1996–97 Greater Grand Forks flood. Older adults, living in two long-term care facilities, were evacuated to temporary shelters. Later moved to other long-term care facilities or to the homes of family members, they experienced multiple moves. In order to learn what impact the evacuation had on the institutionalized elderly, two major questions were studied. These were: (1) What were the experiences of the institutionalized elderly during the evacuation? (2) What were the coping strategies used by the institutionalized elderly?

Data were gathered using triangulation: interviews, observation and supplemental resources. The information was analyzed to identify codes that represented the data.

Codes produced categories of related information that were further defined as the themes of the findings. The identified themes were: advocating for an advocate, loss of community, diminishing locus of control, and negative correlation between multiple moves and health.

This study found that the institutionalized elderly needed an advocate. Declining health and losses led to their inability to seek the services that they needed to maintain a quality of life. Family members, or if unavailable, other support networks were needed to fill this role.

Community continued to be an important aspect of their lives. The elders' sense of security and connectedness had stemmed from the supports available through the community. When this connectedness was lost the older adult ultimately experienced a decline in the support networks.

Internal and external locus of control is essential to self-efficacy. When this locus of control was diminished or eliminated, the older adults in this study believed that they had little or no control over their lives.

Multiple moves exacerbated transfer trauma leading to an inability to access past successful coping mechanisms. When they could no longer cope, the older adults were unable to draw the strength to deal with declines in physical and mental health.

In general, this study found that transfer trauma related to evacuation and the efforts to find a permanent home had a negative effect that impacted the institutionalized elderly physically, emotionally and mentally.