In 2003, Paul “Sparky” Adams was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease and now his wife, Kathy, is losing him to dementia

200722 C2725 820
Paul “Sparky” Adams (right), a resident at Cardinal Court, is pictured here visiting with his wife, Kathy (left). The former Director of Annual Giving at Baldwin Wallace is suffering from Parkinson’s disease and dementia. (Photography: Benjamin Margalit)

By Beth Newcomb

There’s a reason Paul Adams goes by the nickname, “Sparky.” The former Director of Annual Giving at Baldwin Wallace was a creative force who loved to be around people—and people loved to be around him. In 2003, when Paul’s wife, Kathy, started noticing his tremors and facial masking (inability to smile), the couple decided to get to the bottom of what was happening and learned that Paul had Parkinson’s disease.

A light in the community, Sparky continued to work, spend time with friends and vacation while navigating the various manifestations of Parkinson’s, until 2011 when a new, uglier side of the disease became apparent.

About 50-80% of people diagnosed with Parkinson’s ultimately develop one of the more than 100 types of dementia. Sparky, a man devoted to loving and caring about others, unfortunately fell into that 50-80% category.

“Most people understand dementia to happen in tandem with Alzheimer’s,” says Holly Soresso, a community resource director for JEA Senior Living, which owns and operates Cardinal Court, in Strongsville, and Greenfield Estates, in Copley, two of the most highly regarded Alzheimer’s and dementia care facilities in Northeast Ohio. “But dementia is actually a symptom. It’s not the disease.”

Sparky’s Parkinson’s is a result of serving as a marine in Vietnam. “They think it’s from Agent Orange,” Kathy explains.

Holly Soresso (far right) is the Community Resource Director at Cardinal Court. Anyone who needs help dealing with Alzheimer’s or dementia can lean on her for support and information. Also pictured L-R: Kathy, Samantha, and Paul.

For the last several years, Kathy was able to keep Sparky at home, lovingly devoting herself to his care the same way he had spent his life devoting himself to loving and caring for others. Last year she realized she couldn’t continue to navigate on her own. That’s when she sought the help of Holly and the team at Cardinal Court in Strongsville, which is the closest location for Kathy.

Cardinal Court and Greenfield Estates are designed to resemble the interior of a warm and inviting home. Life stations dot the hallways to help connect residents to the past. Before a new resident establishes him or herself, Holly and her team interview the family to find out what kind of life the person has lived, then his or her story is incorporated into a care plan.

Kathy says she chose Cardinal Court because of its Meaningful Moments program, where residents are encouraged to stay connected to the past. The facility also caters to people suffering from Parkinson’s and has occupational therapy items like weighted spoons for eating and other adaptive materials.

“My son and I visited and really liked what we saw here,” Kathy says. “The staff genuinely cares about who Paul was, who he is and who he wants to be. They treat him like he’s part of the family…sitting and talking with him, loving him. Some days he still knows it’s me. Other days he isn’t sure. Sometimes he can’t find the right words to use. We’re navigating this challenge together, focused on keeping him present, engaged and living the best quality life he can, all with the help of the Cardinal Court team. Paul cared so much about ‘taking care of his people.’ That was his philosophy. Now that’s been reversed and we’re showing him that love. I know he’s getting that here.”

To take a virtual tour of Cardinal Court or Greenfield Estates Alzheimer’s Special Care Centers and experience the difference these dementia care units can make in the life of someone you love, call Cardinal Court, 18719 Drake Road 440-268-9180, in Strongsville, or Greenfield Estates, 3522 Commercial Drive, in Copley, 330-664-1650. The web address is