Dame Barbara Windsor calls Alzheimer's 'a cruel illness' in video message

Julia Hunt

Dame Barbara Windsor described Alzheimer’s as “a cruel illness” as she made a rare appearance in a video message.

The EastEnders legend – who was diagnosed with the disease in 2014 – was seen in a video played at the first Good Morning Britain 1 Million Minutes Awards, and the footage was aired on the ITV programme on Friday morning.

In the clip, the 82-year-old actress awarded Danny Brown the inaugural Dame Barbara Windsor Award - an accolade for someone who has helped people with Alzheimer’s or dementia combat loneliness. 

Read more: Dame Barbara Windsor asks Boris Johnson to help dementia patients

Addressing Brown, who got involved in volunteering after being diagnosed with vascular dementia, she said: “Volunteers like you are so important in the fight against loneliness, especially for those like us, who know all too well the struggles of a cruel illness.

“Your dedication to helping others has not only helped bring your community together, but brought much-needed attention to the valuable cause.” 

Barbara Windsor attends the inauguration of the Hackney Empire Walk Of Fame on May 25, 2017 in London, England (Jeff Spicer/Getty Images)

The star - best known for playing Walford’s pub landlady Peggy Mitchell - added: “And doing all this at the same time as living with dementia yourself, is truly inspirational. 

“Thank you, Danny, and congratulations again. God bless.”

Dame Barbara then blew the winner a kiss.

The star is rarely seen in public these days and earlier this month her husband Scott Mitchell said her symptoms had “deepened”.

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.”

Read more: Barbara Windsor makes rare TV appearance

Good Morning Britain also welcomed TV performer Debbie McGee, who appeared alongside 1 Million Minutes Award winner Oyovwe Kigho.

Debbie McGee attends the Good Morning Britain 1 Million Minutes Awards at Television Centre in London. (James Warren / SOPA Images/Sipa USA)

Kigho won the Special Recognition Award for helping hundreds of widows and widowers to cope with grief and loneliness.

McGee lost her husband Paul Daniels in 2016, but said she was lucky because as she is in the public eye, people know what she is going through.

She said: “And what’s really important with grief, it used to be that people thought that grief shrunk with time... time heals and all of that, but what they believe now is grief stays the same size.

“It’s how you build your life around it and make it bigger.”