Gaile Perry Dixon offers compassionate care to seniors

Gaile Perry Dixon offers compassionate care to seniors

Scottsdale LIVING WELL Magazine

When Gaile Perry Dixon went to visit a distant relative in a west Phoenix group home in 1998, she had no idea how much her life was about to change.

She had always been close to her Great Aunt Mary, once a wild woman of the West in her own right, who had been an assistant producer for Walt Disney, a world traveler, and a feisty lady once courted by former Senator Barry Goldwater. Now she was a broken woman with Alzheimer’s disease who recognized no one.

“My family did not know where to turn or where to start looking for help,” recalls Dixon. “Our decision was made by default and Aunt Mary was cared for by the first adult care home that would ‘take her.’”

“She was with people who could not speak English, could not cook American food, and could not comfort her because she could not understand them. I knew there must be a better way for people to spend the last years, months, or days of their lives than to be relegated to a room where they watch ‘shock talk’ shows and have no one with whom to talk.”

Shortly thereafter, Dixon’s 99-year-old grandmother suffered a heart attack and could no longer live independently. Again, the family was faced with the question, “Where do you go when you can’t go home?”  For Gaile and Michael Dixon, the answer was simple…they would create their own care home centered on the quality home environment, safety, medication management, and comfort they believed their loved ones deserved.

The couple opened Dream Catcher Assisted Living Home in mid-1999 so they could take care of her grandmother and Aunt Mary in an inviting and loving home environment. Walk in and you’ll find familiar aromas of favorite, traditional recipes cooking in the oven; bedrooms decorated to reflect the occupant’s life story; living rooms for conversation, reading, playing a favorite board game, or enjoying companionship of the house pets.

Currently, in their 14th year of business, Gaile daily dedicates her time, energy, and love to the 20 residents living in their now two spacious Dream Catcher homes. Both are situated in serene, Scottsdale residential neighborhoods, yet there are no signs indicating their presence in front of each single-family home.

Gaile’s nurturing concern for maintaining each resident’s dignity is emulated by her caregivers, most of whom have been on staff for years. There is no challenge that shakes her patience and commitment to her residents, despite being called by them or others at odd hours of the day and night.

“I grew to love Gaile and the caregivers as much as my grandmother Grace did,” remarks Sherol Engel who assumed her guardianship long-distance from Wisconsin when Grace’s son, Sherol’s father, died. “They not only did their jobs, they put their hearts and souls into it. Upon her death, they went beyond what typical caregivers would do. Gaile, Michael and the staff were as close as family could be.”

Michael serves as the Dream Catcher chaplain, leading weekly church services for those of both the Jewish and Christian faiths. Currently the movie critic for Fox10 and a national radio talk show host, he visits with the residents and caregivers on a regular basis providing counseling and support as needed.

“I’m in awe of Gaile,” remarks Michael. “She has the same spirit of Mother Teresa. She helps people. I always knew that Gaile had compassion but being responsible for the people in our care homes brought out the kind, compassionate, gentle, loving side of her. This experience has completely changed her…and she is my hero.”

Perhaps long time colleague and friend Chris Willis, client services manager at Cypress Home Care Solutions in Phoenix, says it best. “Gaile has the biggest heart…just look up the word ‘compassion’ in the directory and you’ll find her picture next to it.”