Coronation Street legend Julie Goodyear has had a “heart-breaking diagnosis” of dementia, her husband has announced.
The 81-year-old actress is best known for her role in Weatherfield as Rovers Return barmaid Bet Lynch.
In a statement released on Wednesday, her husband Scott Brand said: “My darling wife and I have had to come to terms with this heart-breaking diagnosis.
“Unfortunately, Julie has been suffering forgetfulness for some time and we have been seeking medical advice and assistance, but we now know that there is no hope of a reversal in the situation – and that her condition will get progressively, and perhaps speedily, worse.
“We have taken the decision to publicly announce the diagnosis as Julie still loves visiting friends and eating out.
“Inevitably she is recognised, and fans love to meet her – and she them – but she can get confused particularly if she is tired. I hope people will understand.
The former Celebrity Big Brother housemate remains a patron of Willow Wood Hospice in Greater Manchester.
Dementia is the name for a group of symptoms associated with an ongoing decline of brain function, according to the NHS.
The condition can affect memory, thinking skills and other mental abilities.
Hilda Hayo, who is the chief admiral nurse and chief executive at Dementia UK, said: “We’re sorry to hear that Julie Goodyear has been diagnosed with dementia, and hope that she and her family are receiving the support and assistance they need at this time.
“By choosing to speak publicly about her diagnosis, Julie and her family will raise vital awareness of dementia and we hope that this will encourage others to seek advice if they have concerns for their brain health.”
Chief executive of Alzheimer’s Research UK, Hilary Evans, said the charity’s “hearts go out” to the star and her family.
She added: “So many of us have such fond memories of watching Julie on screen, playing the iconic role of Bet Lynch.
“It is incredibly brave of Julie’s husband to share this news and help raise much-needed awareness of dementia, a condition affecting almost one million people in the UK today.
“With no treatments to slow or stop the diseases that cause dementia, a diagnosis is truly heart-breaking.
“Tragically many more families like Julie’s will go on to experience the devastation it causes because, if nothing changes, one in two people will be directly affected by dementia.”
Goodyear, who was a staple on Coronation Street for more than 20 years, left Weatherfield in 1995 and subsequently made brief appearances on the soap.
Best remembered for her trademark leopard-print clothing, her character was named the UK’s favourite TV landlady in 2013 in a survey of 1,000 adults by the Campaign for Real Ale (Camra).
Lynch beat Peggy Mitchell, who was played by Barbara Windsor on EastEnders, with 22% of respondents voting in favour of her to Windsor’s 20%.
She has also been a feature of reality TV with appearances on Celebrity Fit Club, Come Dine With Me and a celebrity special of Stars In Their Eyes.
Goodyear married Brand, her fourth husband, in 2007, and discussed their marriage in an interview for Piers Morgan’s Life Stories.
She told Morgan in 2013 the marriage was “all right”, and asked whether she loved him she responded: “Well, I must do, or I wouldn’t still be with him.”