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Dementia-stricken Barbara Windsor, 82, has been moved to a care home, her heartbroken husband Scott reveals

BARBARA Windsor may be pint-sized, but her absence feels huge.

The picturesque mews house she shared with Scott, her husband of 20 years, is now eerily quiet; devoid of that trademark giggle and the constant activity of the carers who’ve helped the couple navigate the tricky waters of her advancing Alzheimer’s.

Just over two weeks ago, Scott took the advice of Barbara’s neurologist and placed her in a full-time, residential care home — an immensely painful decision that’s left him bereft.

“I have been used to hustle and bustle in this little space, then suddenly, silence . . . all you can hear are your thoughts, and that’s not always healthy,” he says, sitting on the sofa where Barbara watched TV.

“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.”

Fighting back tears, he stops a moment then continues.

“Sorry, it’s still so raw. I always said we were like two little munchkins in our little house . . . and now there’s just one munchkin,” he smiles sadly.

Naturally, the house is full of memories from Barbara’s fascinating life.

Black and white images of parents John and Rose Deeks, photos of her and Scott on foreign holidays and, of course, numerous awards from her long and highly successful showbusiness career.

As a reminder of less happy times, her Stannah stairlift is the first thing you see as you walk in.

“I’m scared to have it taken away at the moment in case there’s a knock at the door and it’s Barbara,” he adds wryly, a reminder of his wife’s indomitable spirit.

To make the transition as stress-free as possible for 82-year-old Barbara, her neurologist, Dr Angus Kennedy, advised Scott to tell her that she needed to go somewhere for a few days while doctors changed her medication.

Sorry, it’s still so raw. I always said we were like two little munchkins in our little house . . . and now there’s just one munchkin.

He says: “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.”

When they arrived at the care home in London, staff were there to greet them and Barbara, who has recently had trouble walking, was put in a wheelchair.

“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.

“But now, I won’t kid you, it hurts. 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.”

To help settle her in, he has a 24/7 carer with her for the first few weeks, as he didn’t want her to be by herself in a new environment.

Scott, 57, visited several but says this home “just felt right”. He chose a spacious room and, in the week before Barbara’s arrival, made sure it looked welcoming.

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.

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.

“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.”

Again, he pauses to try to control his emotions, but the tears come anyway and he brushes them away.

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’s confusion has been getting steadily worse since last year and escalated again in lockdown.

“The easiest way for me to explain lockdown to Barbara was to tell her that the theatres had to close down,” says Scott.

“But she would forget the conversation and I’d have to keep telling her. I could see she was having complete blanks. She’d be looking around the room, full of everything that belongs to her, and I could tell it was completely alien to her.

“Two nights before I took her to the home, she looked at me quizzically and said, ‘You’re very nice,’ then, ‘What’s your name again?’

“She also became a lot more frail. Her walking was very unsteady and she would get breathless walking from the kitchen to the lounge.

Two nights before I took her to the home, she looked at me quizzically and said, ‘You’re very nice,’ then, ‘What’s your name again?’

“We don’t have space for certain facilities here; like hoists to get her in to the bath. So that was becoming increasingly difficult.”

For the past few months, Scott had round-the-clock carers helping, because Barbara was getting up in the night and, because her legs were weak, she would often fall.

“So obviously, that was becoming a real worry, because I was scared she was going to smash her head on something.

“Whatever reservations I had, however guilty I felt, I knew I was kidding myself if I thought we could carry on like that.”

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.”

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