Rhona Handcock, 86, began her life history several years ago but had to put her writing on hold because of her husband’s failing health. The couple moved into Hastings Court care home on The Ridge in November when the struggle to manage Mike’s health needs at home became too much.
Hastings Court is a purpose built, 80-bed care home providing person-centred residential, nursing and dementia care.
“Before we moved I had dangerously high blood pressure because daily life was so stressful,” said Rhona. “But now I can relax; I know my husband is safe and cared for, we’re much closer to family here and I can get on with my writing.”
Rhona, who met her husband as a newly qualified teacher, has retinitis pigmentosa, a genetic disorder which destroys cells in the retina. Registered blind in 1996, she uses a specially adapted keyboard and software that reads her work to her and allows her to make the type on the screen much bigger.
Her memories of Hastings include four years in the town in the 1960s when her husband was a teacher at St Paul’s Church of England primary school, now St Paul’s Academy, in St Leonards-on-Sea.
“Being in Hastings was a special time for us, it’s where we had our first two children,” remembers Rhona. “Now it’s going to be the place I complete my memoirs in and that’s very exciting.
Home manager Georgina Gamble said they were delighted to be able to keep Rhona and Mike together;
“We always do our best to accommodate couples, especially after 59 years of marriage! Rhona could have stayed at home because she’s completely independent but being able to move into our residential ‘Bluebell’ suite means she’s got none of the worries of maintaining a house, she has her husband close by and she can get on with her writing.”
Rhona said she was inspired to write her memoirs by her two children and five grandchildren.
“They’ve always loved stories about my many aunts and uncles, and my childhood in Surrey when we hosted a Land Girl during the War. They said I should write it all down and I’ve loved doing it. Because I’m at Hastings Court I can finish the book now – I’m on the final chapter which I’ve called ‘The Last Lap – Old Age’.
“People are the bread and butter of my life, my main-stay, an essential requirement, but my family are like a rich fruit cake!”