The actor, who first starred in the soap as Windsor’s son in 1990, will be exploring the illness in two-part documentary Ross Kemp: Living With Dementia, which airs on ITV tonight (11 June).
Speaking to The Sun about watching Windsor’s state deteriorate over the last six years, Kemp recalled the first time the 82-year-old actor struggled to recognise him.
“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,” he said. “I’m taken aback, but I can’t show it. 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,” he continued, describing Windsor asking him: “Who are you?” and “What are you doing here?”
“I’ve been friends with Barbara and [her husband] Scott for 25 years. I see her as often as I can – every couple of months before the lockdown – and the deterioration in her condition has been shocking and to those of us close to her, deeply upsetting.”
Windsor, who became a household name through the Carry On films and appearing in EastEnders as pub landlady Peggy Mitchell since 1994, was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease in 2014.
While her health has declined in recent years, the actor was named in 2019 as a new ambassador for the Alzheimer’s Society and joined a campaign encouraging the Prime Minister to review the “devastating” state of care for the disease.
Join our new commenting forum
Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies