Above: Ben Sange with a photo of his father, Leon.
Ben's mother, Nancy.
The La Bohème Blend on sale at the store.
“It was around 2003, when I was in law school and living with my dad, Leon, who was co-founder/owner of the Napa Valley Coffee Roasting Company,” says Ben Sange. “He sometimes would have these small, strange moments…they’re a little hard to explain, but something wouldn’t seem right in his brain for a moment or two, and then he’d be fine again.
“Then there was a big, strange moment. Dad went to the St. Helena shop, which opened at 7 a.m., and couldn’t figure out why the door was locked or where the staff and customers were. It was because it was 7 p.m.—he had his time of day backwards.
“He was admitted to the hospital, where they ran a bunch of tests, including cognition tests where he was asked to complete line drawings or repeat a pattern. He couldn’t do them.
“He was diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer’s Disease. He was only 62. That diagnosis changed everything. There was so much to consider with his personal care and the business, so my brother, Charlie, moved back up to help. I helped out while still working at my own job for a while, but ended up coming back, as well,” says Ben.
“When it comes to a disease like Alzheimer’s, there’s not much medicine can do, so the real care comes from the family,” says Nancy Haynes, Ben’s mother. “Leon and I had divorced 20 years earlier and I was remarried, but when Leon was diagnosed we all helped: Charlie, Ben, my husband and me.
“Fortunately, we discovered the Day Program at Collabria Care. That was so helpful, because Leon could be with others in a similar situation, be engaged through activities and just get out of his usual surroundings. And once a month, I attended the caregiver sessions.
The best people to understand what you’re going through are those who are going through it themselves, and we had a great group leader who was incredibly empathetic, yet kept the sessions on track.
Listening to some other families’ stories made me so grateful for my own family: we all trusted each other to do the best for Leon, and Leon trusted us, and with Collabria Care’s support, were able to work well together to care for him.
“As his disease progressed, Leon got sweeter and dearer,” recalls Nancy.
“Before he passed away, he reconnected with other family members he had been estranged from," adds Ben. “It was
heartwarming because he remembered them, but heartbreaking that it happened so late. He died at 64, just two years after his diagnosis.”
“Ever since Dad started the Napa Valley Coffee Roasting Company in 1985, it has been a community-based business, donating coffee to local events and groups and creating custom blends for non-profit programs where 20% of the sales were donated to the charity,” says Ben. “So we were happy to partner with Collabria Care to create a blend to support the program that had cared for Dad. We’ve also done gift certificates and gift baskets for their recognition programs.
“Dementia is such an awful disease but Collabria Care does a great job at helping everyone: the sick and their families. We’re grateful to help in any way that we can.”
Collabria Care thanks Ben and Charlie Sange and the Napa Valley Coffee Roasting Company for their ongoing support of Collabria Care. The La Bohème blend benefiting Collabria Care can be purchased online, at their Napa and St. Helena coffee shops and at La Bohème in St. Helena.