The public has been reeling in recent weeks after it was revealed that national treasure Barbara Windsor has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease at the age of 80.
Rita Simons is the latest celeb to talk about Barbara’s illness and her on-screen son, Ross Kemp has come out recently and said that for the former Carry On star it is, in fact, something of a relief that people now know about her diagnosis.
He has also praised her strength in the face of such a devastating health problem.
The actor, who played Grant Mitchell in EastEnders but in more recent years has carved himself out a spot as genuinely one of the best presenters on TV, told of how he spoke to the 80-year-old TV legend, who is best known not only for her roles in the Carry On films over the years, but also for playing Peggy Mitchell in the long-running BBC soap opera EastEnders.
He has said that not only was she doing great when he spoke to her, but he also said that she hopes that in revealing her diagnosis will help others.
“I spoke to Barbara on the phone this week,” said Ross, 53, at the DIVA Magazine Awards in London on Friday night. “She’s doing a lot better than she was.
“I’m really proud of her and her husband Scott for being open about it. I think it was a brave decision to reveal her Alzheimer’s diagnosis.
“Hopefully it will take some of the stigma away and allow others to talk about it. She feels relieved after telling people.”
Barbara was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s in 2014, but her husband Scott Mitchell, 55, only decided to speak out and discuss his wife’s health problems recently before her memory got any worse or rumours began to spread.
He has also admitted that his wife’s condition has worsened to the point where she sometimes forgets that they are married.
Earlier this month, the star was pictured looking health and happy as she had her picture taken with old pal David Walliams.But according to one Barbara’s former co-stars, her health has taken a “dip” in recent weeks.
Rita Simons updates us on Barbara’s health
Rita Simons, who played Roxy Mitchell in the BBC soap, said that she was heartbroken to see her former co-stars decline in health.
She spoke to the Daily Star: “From what her husband Scott Mitchell said to me, she has had a real dip lately. What I have seen is more confusion, which is really devastating to watch because she always had her marbles together and was always the life and soul of the party.”
She added: “It is an incredibly sad thought that my Aunty Peggy – which is what I’ve always called Barbara – isn’t herself.
“Alzheimer’s is such a terrible disease and equally horrible for those who are left to care for people.”
Rita said: “I spoke to Barbara last year…I was concerned about her health as it was the first time I’d seen her since I found out she wasn’t well and it was the first time I saw a bit of confusion.
“I speak to Scott a lot who keeps me updated. Every now and then I will call her if I’m in a famous theatre because she likes to talk about the old theatres and she’s good if it’s a subject she has fond memories of.
“From what Scott says there are some dark days but they still have good days, too.
“Scott is doing an amazing job. I don’t know what she would do without Scott.
“Barbara is really loved and has so many great people around her.”
Scott Mitchell revealed that he wanted to ease the stigma of Alzheimer’s to the general public.
“For me being able to talk openly about Barbara’s dementia has been invaluable and a huge sense of relief,” he said.
“It is so important we address the stigma surrounding dementia and that we all make small changes in our communities to help people like Barbara to continue to go out and live the life that they want.”
His comments came after a poll recently said that the incurable brain disease is the biggest health concern for half of all adults.
Many even said that they would feel that their lives would effectively be over if they were diagnosed.
Scott first began noticing the signs in 2009, when Barbara, as Peggy Mitchell, began to struggle to remember her lines on set.
She eventually left EastEnders in 2016.
Scott said: “I know how difficult a dementia diagnosis can be for the person affected and everyone close to them.”
Jeremy Hughes, the CEO of the Alzheimer’s society, said: “There is no denying that dementia can be devastating, but a diagnosis doesn’t mean your life is over. At Alzheimer’s Society, we interact every day with inspirational people living well with dementia, who continue to do the things they love and drive change in their local community.
“Everyone living with dementia faces major challenges, but small actions we can all take can make a big difference.
“Too many people affected face dementia alone, without adequate support – and a lack of confidence and knowledge surrounding the condition only adds to this.
“Some people cease all contact as soon as they hear their friend has dementia, choosing to say nothing rather than risk saying the wrong thing.
“Or a person with dementia experiences a lack of patience in a shop, making them unlikely to visit again.
“It has led to sufferers calling on us all to take action. Think how you would feel if you were diagnosed. With a new case every three minutes, it could be you or someone close to you.
“We need more people to become Dementia Friends and more community programmes. It is the biggest health and social care crisis of our day and it is only by uniting against it that we are going to create a dementia-friendly UK.”
“Committing to actions this Dementia Action Week, like asking a person about their condition or inviting them out, may seem like small steps but collectively these will provide giant leaps to helping address these fears.”