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EastEnders Barbara Windsor moved to care home as husband opens up

Written by on 1st August 2020

Barbara Windsor, known to many as EastEnders landlady Peggy Mitchell and for her appearances in the Carry On films has been moved to a care home full time.

Barbara as Peggy Mitchell with her onscreen sons played by Ross Kemp and Steve McFadden. Source: BBC

In an interview with The Sun, Scott Mitchell, Barbara’s husband of 20 years has described the situation as being on an ‘emotional rollercoaster’. He added that he’s having to get used to the house without Barbara’s ‘hustle and bustle’ after taking the advice of her neurologist and moving her into residential care amid her dementia battle.

“I feel I’m on an emotional rollercoaster. I walk around, trying to keep busy, then burst in to tears. It feels like a bereavement,” he explained.

Barbara Windsor and Prime Minister Boris Johnson. Credit: PA:Press Association

“It’s always been my biggest fear, that one day I would have to take her somewhere and she’d be thinking, “Why would he do this to me?” That fear has become a reality. It’s something I never wanted.”

Scott added “Walking out of the house that day was an incredibly tough thing to do because, the reality is, I doubt if Barbara will ever return. She didn’t know that as we were driving off, but I did. It was an awful feeling.”

He continued “Whilst I was parking the car, they wheeled her through reception and, apparently, she was blowing kisses to some of the other residents, insisting she be taken over so that she could kiss their hands!”

“They didn’t let her because she had to self-isolate for two weeks because of Covid, but I felt heartened because it’s so Barbara and I hope that now she’s allowed to mix with everyone, she’ll settle more.

Scott said that he visited several homes but this one “just felt right”. He chose a spacious room and, in the week before Barbara’s arrival, made sure it looked welcoming.

He says: “I put family pictures up, one of her getting her Damehood from the Queen, and one of her, Paul O’Grady and Cilla Black at the Royal Variety Performance. And framed posters of her work, like Sparrows Can’t Sing, and Entertaining Mr Sloane.

Barbara as Peggy Mitchell in EastEnders. Source: Kieron McCaron/ BBC

“I’ve tried to make it so she looks around and there’s some familiarity. She still thinks her parents are around. On the day we went, she pointed to one of the photos and said, ‘There’s mummy’ and recently, she often asks, ‘Does my dad know where I am?’ which I believe is what she asked her mum when she was evacuated to Blackpool during the Second World War.”

They arrived at the home at around 2.30pm on Wednesday July 15 and Scott stayed until 7pm.

He says: “It was a draining day, emotionally. I tried to keep upbeat and composed, because I didn’t want to distress her, but inside I was really hurting. 

“When I left, I’d driven about a quarter of a mile before I had tears streaming down my face.

“I’ll never forget the feeling of emptiness. 

“I felt sick in the pit of my stomach that I’d left her. I still feel like that. 

“By the time I got home and went to bed, I just felt desperately sad.

“It’s been 27 years since we met and we spent so much of that time in each other’s company. It feels like another chapter has gone.”

On the home’s advice, he didn’t go the next day so she could settle in a bit, and went the following day instead. 

He recalls: “Her face lit up when I walked in and she said, ‘Oh it’s my husband!’ 

“We sat in the garden and had a coffee under the umbrella, and she seemed quite calm. 

“She didn’t question that she hadn’t seen me the day before or spoken to me. 

“We had a really lovely chat for over an hour and when I said I had to go, she asked where I lived.”

Barbara Windsor and husband Scott Mitchell. Source: Jeff Spicer/ Getty Images

Barbara was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s six years ago and, in 2018, Scott took the difficult decision to go public with the news so Barbara could go out without people being puzzled by any erratic behaviour. 

He has since been actively involved in not only raising vital funds for research in to dementia, but also in raising awareness of the disease which affects around 850,000 people in the UK and takes a heavy toll on their loved ones.

That’s why he’s chosen to speak so openly about this; so anyone going through the same gut-wrenching experience doesn’t feel alone.

“I’ve been told by many people that it’s a really distressing thing to put a loved one in a care home, and I really understand that now,” he says with an anxious frown.

“The staff there are truly angels and pay close attention to my wellbeing too. They told me that most people would have given up by now and I should feel proud and hold my head up high.”

Scott has also been supported by a close-knit circle of friends who pop in to make sure he’s OK, for which he’s immensely grateful.

“Deep down, I know it’s for the best, but Barbara doesn’t yet. 

“I’m still trying to envisage when it becomes her normality and she will settle and be happy.

“But right now she still occasionally gets cross with me and wants to come home.

“But that’s the illness and, however painful it is for me to accept it, I don’t regret the decision. 

“I know this needed to happen for Barbara’s wellbeing.”

Scott was not paid for this interview with The Sun. He asked for a donation to Alzheimer’s Research UK.