Rita Simons – who played Roxy Mitchell in the BBC soap – opened up following the heartbreaking news that Dame Barbara Windsor, 80, is suffering from Alzheimer’s disease.
Barbara’s beloved husband Scott Mitchell broke the news in May, in order to “help other families deal with loved ones who have this cruel disease”.
Now. Rita has opened up about her co-star’s condition, telling the Daily Star on Sunday: “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.
“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 continued: “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.
Barbara Windsor’s pictures for first time since Alzheimer’s diagnosis as she poses with old friend David Walliams who describes her as “the woman of my dreams ever since I was a boy” [Instagram ]
“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.”
Peggy Mitchell actress Barbara was given the tragic diagnosis in April 2014.
Revealing that he wanted to raise awareness about the disease, her husband told The Sun: “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.
“I hope speaking out will help other families dealing with loved ones who have this cruel disease. Secondly, I want the public to know because they are naturally very drawn to Barbara and she loves talking to them.”
Scott added that his wife – who was given a Damehood for services to showbusiness and charity in 2016 – was aware he was telling the public, stating that Barbara would always ask: “Do the public know I’m not well?”
Her partner stated he started to notice symptoms of the condition in 2009, before she left EastEnders for the first time. He said she began to find it difficult to learn her lines, before going through a series of mental agility tests and a brain scan – before they were finally given the diagnosis.
By 2016, it was decided she would leave EastEnders for the final time because her confusion was getting worse. She has now retired from both acting and her charity work.
Describing his other half as a “mini warrior”, Scott added: “I don’t want it to come across that she’s sitting there unable to communicate, because she’s not. We’re still going out for walks or dinner with friends and we still laugh together a lot.
“I didn’t want someone else to dictate how or when the diagnosis came out, so that’s why I’m speaking about it now.”
Following the reveal, Barbara is said to be “overwhelmed” with the mass support from fans.