Local vineyard hosts 5k to benefit The Longest Day®

When Michelle Campos, the owner of Campos Family Vineyards, saw her friend, Heather, struggling under the weight of caring for her mother who had Alzheimer’s, she knew she had to step in. Michelle helped Heather by spending time with Heather’s mom, Sylvia, and giving Heather much needed breaks. Despite Sylvia’s death in 2023, Michelle continues to honor her by dedicating the proceeds of this year’s Mother’s Day Rosé 5K run towards The Longest Day®.

Heather and her mom Sylvia, who had Alzheimer's, at the beach
Heather (left) and Sylvia (right)

Moving mom to California

Sylvia was an outgoing woman who took care of anyone in need. She loved the elderly, put others first and made everyone laugh. It came as a shock to her family when, in her late 50s, Sylvia suddenly stopped paying both her house and car payments. “She lost her home and her car,” said Heather, Sylvia’s daughter. “[Sylvia] moved in with her sister, who noticed she was not the same person she remembered.”

After three years of odd behaviors, Heather knew it was time for her mother to come to California and move in with her. Once in California, Heather took Sylvia to see a doctor where she was initially diagnosed with Dementia with Lewy bodies (DLB) at the age of 60.

Heather scoured the Alzheimer’s Association® website (alz.org) to learn all she could about the disease, and after some research she believed her mother was misdiagnosed. After a return trip to the doctor, Sylvia was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s.

Living situation

Sylvia lived with Heather and her family for two years before moving into a care setting in 2018. In 2020, Heather did her best to see Sylvia however she could, even if that was knocking on a window and waving at her through the glass or on Zoom. Heather even went the extra step to call other people living in the care setting whose families didn’t have the ability to call as frequently.

By the fall of 2020, Heather decided the limited contact had gone on long enough and brought her mother home to live with her once again. However, by the time the vaccines were released and families could return to visit loved ones, all of the care setting that Sylvia could qualify for were full and not accepting new patients.

In November of 2022, Heather made the tough decision to take her mother back to her hometown where other family were available to visit her in a facility that was able to accommodate her. Sylvia lived there for a year before her death in 2023 at the age of 67.

Heather and Sylvia who had Alzheimer's at the Campos Winery
Heather (left) and Sylvia (right)

Exploring the Vineyard

According to the Alzheimer’s Association2024 Alzheimer’s Disease Facts and Figures report, Heather is part of the 83% of family members, friends or unpaid caregivers caring for an older adult in the Untied States. Like Heather, over one-third of dementia caregivers are daughters and most caregivers (66%) live with the person with dementia in the community. Heather is also part of the 25% of dementia caregivers that are “sandwich generation” caregivers — meaning that they care not only for an aging parent but also for at least one child.

During the five years that Sylvia was living in California with her daughter’s family, Heather knew she needed help. She found support from her friend, Michelle Campos, owner of Campos Family Vineyards in Byron, California. “Michelle was a saving grace,” said Heather. “She was one of three friends that would come around be a part of my journey. The few that would get their hands dirty.”

Michelle would encourage Heather to bring her mom to the winery. Heather and Michelle would sit in the front of the winery’s 10-passenger shuttle, and Sylvia would choose her favorite seat. The three women would drive around the vineyard or look at the horses in the neighboring property.

“Michelle gave me [a break],” said Heather. “She’d take her for a walk, sit with mom, or hang out with me and mom at my house.”

Michele and Ric Campos
Michelle and Ric Campos

Taking a toll

Michelle recounts how hard it was to watch Sylvia slowly forget who Heather was. “We saw the toll it took on them,” said Michelle. “She had a lot on her plate, with her mom at home. I watched [Heather] become exhausted and lose herself. I watched her have to come to terms with not calling her mom ‘Mom’ anymore and calling her Sylvia. I watched what they had to do to their home. They had to put up gates so [Sylvia] couldn’t get in the kitchen and use the stove. It consumed their life.

“The friends surrounding Heather and her family, we took Sylvia in as one of our own. She loved coming to vineyard we’d take her on the golf cart. You were almost in a fantasy land. I would tell her fun stories and she would laugh.”

Alzheimer's give back wine

Give back series

As a meaningful way of honoring Heather, Sylvia and their family, Michelle and her husband Ric created a wine dedicated to Alzheimer’s disease awareness. “We were bottling a new wine as part of a give back series,” said Michelle. “It has a picture of a sunset. For so many families [dementia] is the longest good-bye, the longest sunset.”

The wine is an estate Mourvèdre’ Barbera blend and a portion of the proceeds go towards Alzheimer’s research. The wine can be purchased online or in their tasting room. Michelle says, “The amount of families that come into the tasting room, almost everyone has someone that Alzheimer’s has touched.”

Rosé 5k

In addition to their wine, the Campos winery also has a Mother’s Day Rosé 5k run (May 11, 2024), with a portion of the proceeds going to a charity of their choice. This year, they’re partnering with The Longest Day.

The Longest Day is the day with the most light – the summer solstice. Join us to fight Alzheimer’s through a fundraising activity of your choice on a day that works for you. The funds you raise advance the care, support and research efforts of the Alzheimer’s Association.

“This is our fifth year of the Mother’s Day 5k Rosé run,” said Michelle. “Moms and daughters come out. We do mimosas before the run. People do it every year together, people run in groups the wear costumes and then we have food trucks after.”

Heather is honored that Michelle and her family would choose the Alzheimer’s Association as one of the charities they give back to. “For them to recognize Alzheimer’s disease for what it is and to recognize the need for it be seen by others,” said Heather. “It’s not just a mental condition. For them to give back to nonprofit organizations that helped me, I can’t put it into words. It’s very special to me.”

Finding her tribe

Heather encourages new caregivers to meet their loved one where they’re at. “They live in an altered reality,” said Heather. “When you’re always telling them no that’s not right, it affects them to a degree that it affects you. Don’t argue with their truth, their truth is not reality but if you agree with them and help them and move in that moment whichever way you can move until the next moment comes, it will keep peace and help them feel better.”

Heather also encourages caregivers to reach out to friends for help. “For your own sanity, your family is going through the same insanity as you,” said Heather. “Reach out to people, you never know who will be there for you. You don’t know who will be willing to help. When i reached out I found my tribe.”

You can donate to the Campos Family Vineyards team or start your own team for The Longest Day at alz.org/thelongestday.

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