Former EastEnders star Dame Barbara Windsor has been placed in full-time residential care after her Alzheimer’s worsened during lockdown.
Scott Mitchell, her husband of 20 years, said he had acted on the advice of her neurologist but the decision had still been immensely painful.
He said the 82-year-old actress left the couple’s property in mid-July and moved to a care home in London.
He told The Sun: “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.
“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.”
Speaking of the day he left Dame Barbara at the home, Mr Mitchell said: “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.”
He has decorated her room to make it as welcoming as possible, putting up family pictures as well as a photograph of the actress receiving her damehood from the Queen.
Mr Mitchell, 57, had said in June that his wife would need full-time care at some stage, describing it as something he had “always feared”.
He said at the time that she often did not recognise their home and she has recently had trouble walking, prompting her to use a wheelchair.
This week he said: “She still seems unsettled and, in her lucid moments, I can see she’s worked out this isn’t temporary. She’s still thinking and saying I’ve let her down. Of course that’s a painful thing to hear, but I know it’s not the Barbara I know speaking.
“And, let’s be honest, who else is she going to blame? I just have to smile and tell her I love her and everything I do is for her best wellbeing. I am no different to millions of other people who would have experienced this.”
Dame Barbara was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s in 2014 and Mr Mitchell revealed the news publicly four years later.
Recalling the moment when the couple were told of the diagnosis, he said: “She began crying then held it back, stretched her hand out to me and mouthed ‘I’m so sorry’.
“I squeezed her hand back and said: ‘Don’t worry, we’ll be OK’.”
Mr Mitchell said he first noticed symptoms of Alzheimer’s in 2009, when Dame Barbara began finding it difficult to learn her lines.
By 2016, the forgetfulness and confusion were worse, and it was agreed she would leave her acting role as pub landlord Peggy Mitchell in EastEnders.
In September last year, the couple delivered a letter to Downing Street signed by 100,000 people, requesting better support for people with Alzheimer’s.
The letter said dementia care across the country was “difficult and in some places even impossible to access”.
Dame Barbara made her stage debut aged 13, but it was her work in the Carry On movies in the 1960s and 70s that made her a star.
She was awarded an MBE in the Millennium New Year honours.
Away from her acting roles, Dame Barbara is probably most famous for her support of the Royal British Legion’s Poppy Appeal.
She has now retired from charity work and acting.