The Veronicas have shared the heart-wrenching story of their mum’s early onset dementia diagnosis.
Jessica and Lisa Origliasso are now ambassadors for Dementia Australia, and are opening up about their emotional personal experiences in the hopes of sparking more conversation around the brain-affecting disease.
Speaking with triple J’s Hack program, the pop star twins revealed that they first noticed something was up with their mum Colleen four years ago, during some of their down time from touring.
“We were in town, she seemed fine. Her eyes hurt a little bit, but she was still driving and doing things,” Lisa recalls.
“We went away for two months to do music. When we came back she couldn’t drive anymore,” she continues. “She was attempting to, but she couldn’t tell the difference between forward and reverse.”
At first, the sisters just thought their mum was a bit tired, but her symptoms continued to deteriorate.
“That rapidly progressed over four years now to the point where she’ll find it difficult to remember how to use a microwave, she will find it hard to recall things that she might have done everyday for her whole life,” Jess explains.
“It’s been tough. There’s been a lot of confusion, fear, paranoia.”
She continues: “I’m sure our mum took some time [before] talking to us about it. She kept calling it anxiety. I’m sure there was a lot of fear around accepting that she couldn’t remember things or that there were hallucinations, or paranoia, or fear”.
To make matters worse, the girls explain, Colleen was misdiagnosed multiple times before doctors finally realised that she was suffering from Lewy body dementia, a terminal disease caused by proteins in the nerve cells of the brain.
“She was initially diagnosed with depression and anxiety and put on antipsychotics for those symptoms,” Lisa says, adding that, when they finally received the official dementia diagnosis, it was “heartbreaking”.
“Heartbreak and disbelief,” Jess adds. “It was a mixture of relief that we finally had a diagnosis that made sense, but at the same time, anger at the misdiagnosis for so long.”
As Dementia Australia ambassadors, The Veronicas are hoping to break down some of the stigmas around the disease, including the misconception that dementia only affects the elderly.
“Of the 425,000 Australian people who live with dementia, one in 13 are in their 50s, their 40s and 30s. It’s much more common than people are aware,” CEO of Dementia Australia Maree McCabe tells Hack.
For more information, you can head to the Dementia Australia website.