Dame Barbara Windsor has been living with Alzheimer’s disease since 2014 and her condition is said to have worsened in recent weeks, says her husband Scott Mitchell.
Speaking to The Sun, Mitchell revealed the much-loved entertainer, famous for her roles in EastEnders and the Carry On film series, was diagnosed four years ago but symptoms such as memory loss and confusion have deteriorated recently. Speculation about her health has led to Mitchell to talk publicly for the first time about his wife’s illness.
“I want the public to know because they are naturally very drawn to Barbara and she loves talking to them,” said Mitchell. “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. I hope speaking out with help other families with loved ones who have this cruel disease.”
The actress, 80, said goodbye to her most famous role, indomitable EastEnders matriarch Peggy Mitchell, in 2016 when the character was killed off at Windsor’s own request. It’s now understood her decision was inspired by wanting closure on the character after her Alzheimer’s diagnosis, which came in April 2014, two years after doctors began monitoring Windsor’s bouts of forgetfulness.
Windsor had played Peggy since 1994, but quit the role full-time in 2010 citing the grueling filming schedule as one of the reasons. She returned for a number of guest appearances, including EastEnders’ 30th anniversary live week in 2015. The following year screen son Ross Kemp returned as Grant for the first time in a decade as part of Peggy’s emotional exit storyline.
Last year Windsor was involved in the production of Babs, a one-off BBC drama about her life written by former EastEnders writer Tony Jordan and starring Samantha Spiro and Jaime Winstone as Windsor at different points in her career. The star became a Dame in 2016 for services to showbusiness and charity.
Tim Parry, director of Alzheimer’s Research UK, said today: “We are saddened to hear of Dame Barbara’s diagnosis. Alzheimer’s is the most common disease behind dementia, accounting for around two thirds of cases of the condition in older people. It is to be congratulated that Scott is speaking out to encourage other affected individuals and families to do the same when it’s right for them. It’s important to bring the disease out into the open as a crucial step towards tackling it.
“Our hearts go out to Dame Barbara and her family, and we hope she is able to maintain and enjoy her quality of life for as long as possible.”
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