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No need to be at sea with elderly care

More than 400,000 people in the UK are already living in care homes according to research by Laing Buisson, and with an ageing population, more people than ever will be in need of care in the future.

Though making the decision to put a loved one in a care home is tough, the care, facilities and companionship available at many homes should put the minds of families who have made the choice, at ease.

Care homes can provide round-the-clock care for those who need it most, with specialised staff and facilities for specific needs – such as dementia or end-of-life care. There are also a number of homes catering for residents with particular backgrounds, including ex-forces, railways and seafarers, like The Royal Alfred Seafarers’ Society.

Like other homes catering for specific sectors of the community, we tailor our care to ensure we meet the particular needs of our residents that may have come as a result of their background. For us, we find that when someone has spent most of their lives at sea away from their families, it can be even tougher than normal for them to accept that they require nursing care. Seafarers live an extremely independent life and therefore might not be used to accepting care and help, especially those working in the Merchant Navy, who often live outside established communities.

We’ve been providing housing, residential and nursing care to former seafarers, their spouses and dependants for more than 150 years and tailor this to those with a maritime background, with residents able to share their experiences with each other in a friendly environment. Our home, Belvedere House, in Banstead, Surrey, is furnished with maritime features and equipment and also has a bar onsite for our residents to catch up over a pint of ale!

What to look for

Once someone has decided that they require nursing care, there are a number of things you need to look for together to ensure your loved one receives the best care for them.

All care homes are tightly regulated and many have their own websites, or listings on websites such as, which detail the facilities, specialisms and experience of the home. You can also read reviews and testimonials from other residents and families to get a feel for the home’s culture and environment.

The best way of experiencing the environment of a potential care home for your loved one is to visit it. Many homes, such as ours, have Open Days to welcome in prospective residents and showcase our facilities, offering a chance to meet our staff and those living at the home. Belvedere House will also welcome visitors at any time and a show round can always be organised. We know how important it is for people to feel comfortable in their future home and visiting is a great opportunity to see how it would suit their lifestyle.

I feel guilty for putting my loved one in care

In a lot cases, children feel a sense of guilt when they need to look for nursing care for their family member. Firstly, don’t. It’s important to remember you’re taking this step for the benefit of your loved one. It’s vital to know that you aren’t locking your parent away. In fact, family can be involved as much or as little as they desire.

At the Royal Alfred, families are encouraged to be involved in devising a care plan so the staff can understand the specific needs and personality of the resident. Ultimately, you and your loved one have a say on the care they receive and while it may be tough, remember that you are both in control and that care facilities are there to assist.

In our home, residents are involved in activities in the home including card games, bingo, arts and crafts and even a quiz night at the bar. Residents who are more mobile also have the option of day trips and outings.

Family visits and participation are both recommended, and residents are welcome to personalise their room to feel more at home. Residents, staff and loved ones all become part of a tight-knit family with many exchanging stories and tips across Royal Alfred’s social channels. This is a great way of staying in touch with what your loved one is up to, even if you’re not based locally.

For peace of mind, it’s always worth researching the home you’re thinking of. Visit it, meet the staff, and look online to get a feel for it. We recently created a 360 degree tour for our website which allows potential residents and their families to experience the home and its facilities on our website before visiting.

It’s also important to be sure that the home you and your family member choose is of a high standard by looking at independent reports and speaking to referrers. Check Care Quality Commission reports to understand home’s ratings and how they compare to others in the area. Do your research and look at Awards the home may have won or qualifications undertaken by the team – not only will these indicate how the home ranks among its peers, it will also give you peace of mind.

Is support still available if we don’t need a care home?

If you’re able to care for your loved one without the support of a care home, it’s important to be aware that they might still need some assistance at the end of their career. Finding like-minded companionship and support can be hard, but there are many services available for seafarers and their families.

Some great examples include SAIL, which provides dedicated phone and email assistance about relationships and family, pensions, benefits and more, The Merchant Navy Welfare Board, which administers a number of projects for seafarers’ welfare, The Shipwrecked Mariners’ Society, which provides vital financial support and assistance to those in need and SSAFA, the UK’s oldest national tri-service military charity that offers practical, emotional and financial support for anyone who has served in The Royal Navy, British Army and Royal Air Force.

For many, it is still a hard time when someone goes into a care home, but the quality of care homes available means residents have a home away from home, with the care and support they need most.

Want more information?

Visit to find out more about our home, or for more information, call 01737 353763 or email [email protected]