Ross Kemp has revealed that Dame Barbara Windsor failed to recognise him as she continues her battle with dementia.
The TV hardman, 55, spoke about the emotional toll of the disease while filming for his latest two-part documentary series.
Ross, who played Grant Mitchell in EastEnders, worked alongside Barbara for more than 25 years before she was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s six years ago.
Heartache: Ross Kemp, 55, has revealed that Dame Barbara Windsor failed to recognise him as she continues her battle with dementia
The 82-year-old soap legend is now cared for by her husband Scott Mitchell, 56, who acts as her primary carer.
Speaking in the documentary, titled Ross Kemp: Living With Dementia, Ross recalled: ‘”WHO are you? What are you doing here?”
‘I’ve been in Barbara Windsor’s house for just a few minutes. I’m sitting down with a cup of tea and a biscuit with my friend of three decades. I’m taken aback, but I can’t show it.
On-screen family: Ross, who played Grant Mitchell in EastEnders, worked alongside Barbara for more than 25 years before she was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s six years ago (pictured perviously on set)
‘When I arrived, she greeted me with a hug, as one of her closest friends.
‘Barbara was my “TV mum” on EastEnders and is hilariously funny and vivacious, with a rapier wit — we’ve always had a giggle, on and off set. But now she clearly has no idea who I am.’
Ross said his motivation for the new ITV series was to gain a greater understanding of how families cope with the disease.
He added that he was spurred on by Barbara’s story as well as that of his own grandmother being diagnosed during the later stages of her life.
Friends: Ross said that he was spurred on by Barbara’s story as well as that of his own grandmother being diagnosed during the later stages of her life
Scott spoke candidly during filming and admitted that her changes in personality meant that it was not the Barbara he knew.
It comes after Barbara Windsor was reportedly struggling with the coronavirus lockdown because she can’t understand why nobody is visiting her.
The EastEnders icon is accustomed to close friends and family constantly checking in on her but her close friend Christopher Biggins, 71, told The Sun: ‘She’s a little confused as to what’s going on because no one can visit her.
Lockdown struggles: It comes after Barbara Windsor (pictured with Christopher Biggins) was reportedly struggling with the coronavirus lockdown because she can’t understand why nobody is visiting her
‘It’s not because she thinks ”they don’t like me” because her husband Scott explains to her but she just forgets the explanation and she asks all the time.’
Barbara, who is best known for her role as Peggy Mitchell in EastEnders and for starring in nine Carry On films, first revealed she was suffering from the disease, for which there is currently no cure, in May 2018, after being diagnosed in 2014.
Scott has since said that her condition worsened at the beginning of the year and that the legendary actress often gets confused as to where she is.
Family fun: The EastEnders icon is accustomed to close friends and family constantly checking in on her
He told the Sunday Mirror: ‘Constantly, she does not realise where we are, even in the house. She will ask me, “When are we going home?”
‘Sometimes she will ask me about people who have already passed away, as if they are still here. That is something she does regularly about her own parents. It is a very difficult one.’
Scott said the situation was ‘heartbreaking’, adding that she forgets short-term things like if she’s had dinner, but remembers things about her childhood and early career.
Biggins went on to discuss the future of theatres and pantomime season, usually around Christmastime, and thinks it will be a ‘miracle’ if it goes ahead.
Tough time: Her close friend Christopher Biggins, 71, told The Sun: ‘She’s a little confused as to what’s going on because no one can visit her’
He added that he thinks the shows should be postponed for the rest of the year even though it will likely lead to dire consequences for national theatres.
The theatre legend, who is due to star in Jack and the Beanstalk in Dartford, Kent, added: ‘As a performer of my age standing on the stage in front of 1,500 people sneezing and coughing and doing all sorts of things at me, I worry.’
He went on to wonder aloud about how audience members would be allowed to enter theatres in accordance with social distancing measures.
Biggins noted that audience members wouldn’t be able to sit two metres apart and watching with face masks would interfere with laughter.
He added that he believes the reason that theatres have been able to stay afloat until now is due to money that comes in from pantomime season so worries what will happen as a result of lockdown.
- Ross Kemp: Living With Dementia starts on ITV on Thursday at 7.30pm
Heartbreaking: Her husband Scott said her condition worsened at the beginning of the year, and that the legendary actress often gets confused as to where she is
WHAT IS DEMENTIA? THE KILLER DISEASE THAT ROBS SUFFERERS OF THEIR MEMORIES
Dementia is an umbrella term used to describe a range of neurological disorders
A GLOBAL CONCERN
Dementia is an umbrella term used to describe a range of progressive neurological disorders (those affecting the brain) which impact memory, thinking and behaviour.
There are many different types of dementia, of which Alzheimer’s disease is the most common.
Some people may have a combination of types of dementia.
Regardless of which type is diagnosed, each person will experience their dementia in their own unique way.
Dementia is a global concern but it is most often seen in wealthier countries, where people are likely to live into very old age.
HOW MANY PEOPLE ARE AFFECTED?
The Alzheimer’s Society reports there are more than 850,000 people living with dementia in the UK today, of which more than 500,000 have Alzheimer’s.
It is estimated that the number of people living with dementia in the UK by 2025 will rise to over 1 million.
In the US, it’s estimated there are 5.5 million Alzheimer’s sufferers. A similar percentage rise is expected in the coming years.
As a person’s age increases, so does the risk of them developing dementia.
Rates of diagnosis are improving but many people with dementia are thought to still be undiagnosed.
IS THERE A CURE?
Currently there is no cure for dementia.
But new drugs can slow down its progression and the earlier it is spotted the more effective treatments are.
Source: Alzheimer’s Society