Time spent pounding the streets as he trains for his first marathon is giving Dame Barbara Windsor’s husband Scott Mitchell “a real release” from the difficulties of his wife’s dementia, he said.
Mr Mitchell is part of the Barbara’s Revolutionaries team which hopes to raise £100,000 for the Dementia Revolution campaign by running the Virgin Money London Marathon on April 28.
The team includes Dame Barbara’s former EastEnders co-stars Adam Woodyatt (who plays Ian Beale), Jake Wood (Max Branning), Emma Barton (Honey Mitchell), Natalie Cassidy (Sonia Fowler), Kellie Shirley (Carly Wicks), Tanya Franks (Rainie Cross), Jamie Borthwick (Jay Brown) and Jane Slaughter (Tracey).
Mr Mitchell, 55, who has been married to Dame Barbara for 25 years, has previously spoken about how upsetting it is when his wife does not recognise him or their home.
But he told the Press Association that time spent running is helping him to “digest” the situation.
“It’s the first time I have really been a runner. I’m not exactly in the throes of youth,” he joked.
“It’s a revelation. I’m loving it.
“My initial thought was total terror ‘what on earth have you signed up for?’
“After a few weeks of going out there, I have developed a real love for it. It’s a real release.
“I can hear myself think and argue with myself.
“I can digest what’s going on with things.”
He added: “Barbara has good days and bad days. She’s facing the same challenges as everyone else.
“The symptoms aren’t any easier because she’s a well-known celebrity.
“It’s difficult, it can be heartbreaking to watch, incredibly painful to watch.”
He said the person standing in front of you looks the same as they always did “but little by little that person is starting to disappear”.
“There’s not much you can do except be there and make them feel as safe and loved as possible.
Mr Mitchell says the couple recently went to see Shane Richie in the panto Robin Hood in Milton Keynes but, although she was repeatedly told their destination, the former Carry On films star suddenly said: “I thought you said Golders Green”.
“Then she went on telling me what a long way it was,” her husband said, smiling as he added: “There are really funny moments.”
When the training runs get tough, Mr Mitchell said he copes by thinking about his 81-year-old wife who was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease in 2014.
“I think of the reason why I’m running it, part of which is thinking about my wife.”
Mr Mitchell also finds support by chatting to other runners online, many of whom also have experience of dementia.
“The stories are so moving. We are all very open, as well as putting our runs up and encouraging each other.
“One of us might say ‘it’s been a horrible day’. Someone might experience a loved one who hasn’t recognised them for the first time.”
Mr Mitchell said: “This is a major health issue that we are facing.
“It’s not something to be in any way ashamed of. It’s something that no-one can help getting.
“For anyone involved it’s a devastating illness that needs urgent, urgent funding.”
Dementia Revolution, the charity of the year for the Virgin Money London Marathon, is a joint campaign between Alzheimer’s Society and Alzheimer’s Research UK which hopes to power groundbreaking dementia research.
Total fundraising since the London Marathon started in 1981 is expected to pass £1 billion with this year’s event.