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Care home trains staff to help ‘understand life at sea’

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A care home for former sailors has launched an innovative training scheme to help staff better understand the life experiences of their residents and enable them to tailor care provision.

The programme has been introduced at Belvedere House in Surrey, which is run by the Royal Alfred Seafarers’ Society.

“It is crucial for our staff to understand the experiences of our residents”

Brian Boxall-Hunt

It aims to help staff deal with residents’ more challenging behaviour and understand the reasons and causes behind the more complex behavioural manifestations some of the most vulnerable, former seafaring residents present.

The training included a visit to the Chatham historical dockyard with tours of the wartime destroyer HMS Cavalier and the diesel powered submarine HMS Ocelot from the Cold War era.

The visit was supported by some of the society’s former seafaring tenants, including perspectives of both Royal and Merchant Navies, giving staff an insight into several lives at sea.

The charity noted that some of the many difficulties experienced during a career at sea, such as cramped and sparse accommodation, extensive separation from families and often harsh working conditions, were known to potentially lead to both physical and psychological problems in retirement.

Through the targeted training, staff experienced first-hand the living conditions aboard ships, and gained an understanding of residents’ reactions and behaviour that may have been affected by their careers and living conditions at sea, it added.

The programme was the brainchild of the society’s chief executive Commander Brian Boxall-Hunt.

He said: “It is crucial for our staff to understand the experiences of our residents during a lifetime at sea. As a retired Royal Navy officer, I am able to relate to our residents on a unique level, understanding their needs, motivations and quirks.

“To help all of our staff understand the needs of our residents in the same way, we developed and implemented a training programme specifically aimed at improving their understanding of life at sea and thus the needs of those who choose to spend their later years with us,” he said.

The Royal Alfred Seafarers’ Society was established in 1865. It provides nursing, dementia, residential and respite care to retired seafarers and residents of non-seafaring backgrounds.

Under its charter, “seafarers” include Merchant Navy, Royal Navy, fishermen and port workers, as well as their widows, widowers or dependants.

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