EastEnders and Carry On actress Dame Barbara Windsor has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, her husband has revealed.
Scott Mitchell says his 80-year-old wife has kept the devastating news secret since they were first told in 2014 – but that her symptoms have grown worse in recent weeks.
In an emotional interview with the Sun, Mr Mitchell said he wanted to set the record straight amid rumours in showbusiness circles about her deteriorating health.
Dame Barbara played Peggy Mitchell in EastEnders (Kieron McCarron/BBC)He said: “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.”
The star, famous for her roles in nine Carry On films and for playing pub landlord Peggy Mitchell in EastEnders, was given the heartbreaking diagnosis on April 22, 2014.
What is Alzheimer's?
- Some 850,000 people in the UK suffer a form of dementia and the majority have Alzheimer's, a terminal condition affecting the brain
- People on average live for around eight to 10 years after first developing Alzheimer's symptoms
- Its exact cause is unknown but increasing age, family history of the condition, previous severe head injuries and lifestyle factors linked to cardiovascular disease may increase the risk of developing it
- Between 2002 and 2012, 99% of clinical trials testing new therapies for Alzheimer's ended in failure
- The disease is named after Alois Alzheimer, the doctor who first described it
After shedding some tears, her first words were: “I’m so sorry”, Mr Mitchell added.
A small circle of friends who had begun to notice her occasional confusion were told shortly after the diagnosis, he said. But he stopped the news from going public after his wife struggled to come to terms with it.
He stressed that revealing the news any earlier would have been detrimental to her health.
Mr Mitchell told the paper he first noticed symptoms of the condition in 2009, just before Dame Barbara left EastEnders for the first time, when she began finding it difficult to learn her lines.
She underwent a series of mental agility tests, a brain scan and a lumbar puncture, before the couple’s worst fears were confirmed.
By 2016, her forgetfulness and confusion were getting worse, and it was agreed she would leave EastEnders for the final time, Mr Mitchell said.
She has now retired from charity work as well as acting, he added.
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