businesswoman Colyn Devereux’s devastating disease
When Kiwi entrepreneur Charlotte Devereux’s mother was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease six years ago, she lost more than just a parent; she lost her business partner and her friend. “When Mum first got Alzheimer’s it was almost like going through a death,” says Charlotte. “She was very vital and an incredible businesswoman and she was also my best friend – I talked to her about everything. Losing that meant I lost Mum, and for about a year every day when I was with her I would cry.”
The mother/daughter duo started Egg
Maternity Wear in 2001 when Charlotte was pregnant with her first child Jasmin. Egg expanded into Australia and Asia and the pair worked and travelled intensively together. Charlotte first realised something was wrong when Colyn started experiencing some confusion and paranoia, and began repeating herself.
“It wasn’t immediately obvious, because people do repeat themselves as they get a bit older. I repeat myself,” says the 47-year-old. “But then she started telling me something 10 times in a couple of hours and I knew something was wrong.”
After a number of tests Colyn, a vibrant grandmother of 11 who as well as running Egg was the chairperson of the Auckland Chamber of Commerce and tirelessly mentoring business start-ups, was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s.
“The diagnosis was awful,” Charlotte says. “We knew something was up but we just hoped it was minor.”
Charlotte is speaking to The Australian Women’s Weekly from her mother’s home in central Auckland, where Colyn lives with her husband Les Kay and their Labrador Coco.
Charlotte comes here every Friday to look after 73-year-old Colyn, who is now in the advanced stages of Alzheimer’s and has lost the ability to speak and walk. From Monday to Thursday Colyn is looked after by Celia, a registered nurse, while Les works.
“We are very fortunate that Les has kept Mum at home,” says Charlotte of her stepfather.
OPPOSITE: Charlotte and Colyn, with loyal Labrador Coco, who is often by Colyn’s side. Although her illness has robbed Colyn of her ability to walk and communicate, Charlotte says she still responds to music.