EastEnders and Carry On icon Barbara Windsor has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, her husband has revealed.
Scott Mitchell, 55, says that Barbara, 80, was told she had the condition in April 2014 and has been taking medication to manage it, but her symptoms of confusion and memory loss have recently become worse.
“I want the public to know because they are naturally very drawn to Barbara and she loves talking to them,” Scott explains.
“So rather than me living in fear she might get confused or upset, they’ll know that if her behaviour seems strange, it’s due to Alzheimer’s and accept it for what it is.”
He adds: “Since her 80th birthday last August, a definite continual confusion has set in, so it’s becoming a lot more difficult for us to hide.
“I’m doing this because I want us to be able to go out and, if something isn’t quite right, it will be OK because people will now know that she has Alzheimer’s and will accept it for what it is.”
Celebrities have offered up their thoughts to Barbara and her family since news of her diagnosis broke.
Lorraine Kelly penned a heartfelt Twitter message in tribute to the star. She said, ‘Such sad news about Barbara Windsor – a funny, kind, generous, big hearted woman. Alzheimer’s is a very cruel disease. I hope she knows how much she is loved. Thoughts with her husband Scott.’
Eamonn Holmes also wrote his own touching message after the news was announced. On his Instagram, he revealed that he knew about Barbara’s diagnosis, sharing a picture of him and Ruth with the iconic actress.
He wrote, ‘This is us with Dame Barbara Windsor on an evening out last year. Despite her condition which I knew about , she was as usual superb company. #NationalTreasure
Barbara’s husband Scott says that he first started to notice something might be wrong in 2009 when Barbara left EastEnders for the first time and was struggling to learn her lines.
This had worsened by 2012 when she started to repeat certain sentences and stories, leading to her undergoing medical tests.
Eventually she was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, leaving the couple heartbroken.
“When the doctor told us, she began crying then held it back, stretched her hand out to me and mouthed, ‘I’m so sorry . . .’,” Scott reveals.
“I squeezed her hand back and said, ‘Don’t worry, we’ll be OK’.”
At the time she continued to function well and was taking daily medication, allowing her to be able to continue working.
But by 2016 things were getting worse and Scott suggested that Barbara should return to EastEnders for one last time and see her character Peggy Mitchell be killed off, given that Barbara wouldn’t be able to come back again.
“I asked that she have an autocue on set, just as a safety net,” says Scott, who has been married to the star for 18 years. “But in the end, she just used it to refresh her memory between takes. If you saw the Peggy death scenes, you could see she wasn’t reading it.
“Ironically, I think it’s some of the best work she ever did. I was incredibly proud of her.”
Now Barbara has retired from charity and acting work and Scott wants to focus on managing her illness as best as possible.
“Unfortunately, I notice she feels a kind of shame about it,” he admits. “There’s a vulnerability there and I keep telling her, ‘Bar, no one will think you’re silly for having this’.
“I explain that if someone has cancer, no one looks at them and thinks ‘How ridiculous’. We sympathise and it’s the same with this.”
Barbara’s last appearance on screen was a cameo in Babs last year, a biopic drama about her life in showbiz.
The Alzheimer’s Society have also commented on the recent news.
Jeremy Hughes, Chief Executive Officer at Alzheimer’s Society, said, “We were saddened to hear that Barbara Windsor has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease – but we applaud her husband Scott’s decision to speak out about her condition.
“Stigma around dementia still exists, and many people are facing it in the shadows. ‘Babs’, a true cultural icon, is much loved, and speaking out about her experiences will no doubt shine as a beacon for others wanting to live well with dementia. We are here to support people like Barbara and want to reach everyone with a dementia concern or diagnosis. We would urge anyone concerned about dementia, or supporting a loved one with the condition, to contact us.”
FROM: Woman, our sister site. Written by Anna Francis.