It’s so sad to read that Dame Barbara Windsor is now living with dementia in a care home. Not the living in a care home part, because often a good care home, with fresh shifts of trained carers is the best place for someone with advanced dementia to be. Dame Barbara is one of Britain’s most popular celebrities – warm hearted, bubbly and always smiling, and it’s sad to think of her now coping with dementia.
Her husband, Scott Mitchell, noticed something was wrong in 2006 when she started forgetting her lines. In 2014 she was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. and he has been her devoted carer ever since. Barbara’s friend Christopher Biggins, told the Mirror newspaper that husband Scott ‘deserves the highest accolade that anybody can give anybody, together with all carers.’
Barbara’s neurologist had warned Scott that at some point she might need more care than could be provided in their home. Scott said it was his greatest fear, but when her condition worsened during lockdown he had to bow to the inevitable. He said that even though he knows it’s best for her, having to leave her in a care home left him feeling sick to the pit of his stomach and with a huge feeling of emptiness.
Although Scott knows that he he’s made the right decision, he says life at home without Barbara has left him on an emotional roller coaster. ‘I walk around, trying to keep busy, then burst into tears. It feels like a bereavement.’ Which is exactly what it is, of course. He’s grieving for the loss of Barbara’s companionship and their lives together.
He said that she argues with him when he visits, and wants to come back home. So when he leaves, a good tactic is for her to be distracted by a carer, perhaps taking her into the dining room for tea, for example.
Helpful tips and guidance on how to make the most of visiting a loved one with dementia are in our booklet, ‘Visiting a Person with Dementia’. It’s been written by a former psychogeriatric nurse, a cognitive behavioural therapist, and Dr Jennifer Bute, a former GP now living with dementia herself. You can download it free from our website, and send for copies to give to friends who are in the same situation as Dame Barbara and her husband.