Jody Hansen-Walker

Lecanto, Florida

Key Elder Care
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As the only full time Adult Day Care facility in Citrus County, Key Elder Care specializes in providing a safe and enriching place for older adults dealing with Alzheimer’s, Dementia and other developmental disabilities who can’t be left at home alone. Jody Hansen-Walker, who oversees operations at the facility, shared the story behind the business and why she was personally drawn to manage the center and increase its impact on the county.

“Even though Key Elder Care didn’t open its doors until 2015, the concept is 55 years in the making,” Hansen-Walker said. “The original founder, Chet Cole (along with a small group of families) launched Key Training Center to provide a safe and nurturing place for his sister and others with special needs to flourish and enjoy life to the fullest in a safe environment. The concept eventually expanded to include anyone with developmental disabilities. Five years ago, it became apparent a program was needed to help the aging residents who were afflicted with Alzheimer’s and dementia. They were not thriving in the Key’s traditional programs, so we created such a place. In 2017 the county approached us to partner with them to serve the community at large and offered funding options/grants to cover most Citrus county residents. That was basically the birth of Key Elder Care.”

The center is open Monday through Friday from 7:30am to 5:30pm and gives caregivers, many who still need to work, a safe place to drop off their parents or loved ones. Key elder Care serves breakfast, lunch and a snack, and has three full-time nurses on staff. When Hansen-Walker joined the team on October 1st, 2019, she was ready to apply her 25 years of social work experience to make the center even better.

“I’m originally from Buffalo, NY,” she said. “I moved down to Citrus County three years ago to help a family member dealing with Alzheimer’s. I helped him run his business until he was unable to keep going. Watching the disease progress is heart wrenching. After he passed away, I took a part-time position at Key Training Center to see if I liked it. I did and, after about a year, I was hired full-time to run Key Elder Care.”

Since October 1st, Hansen-Walker has been hitting the streets to get the word out. As someone who’s always worked with vulnerable people, she’s especially eager to inform county residents about an opportunity to utilize the center’s services for free.

“Certain citizens can use our services for free thanks to a grant from Citrus County,” she said. “Once they get here, it’s very rewarding to watch our ‘club members’ enjoy each day. They truly love and trust our team members. You can see it on their faces. When their caregivers come in and say, ‘I can’t believe you got my dad to play volleyball’, it makes us feel great.”

Looking ahead, Hansen-Walker is focused on growing the only full-time senior day care center in Citrus County and reaching more citizens in need. She has already implemented occupational/physical therapy services on site for those in need which also helps the caregiver from trying to fit in another outside appointment for their loved one.

What advice does Hansen-Walker have for aspiring entrepreneurs? “Be patient and be fair with your employees,” she said. “I took on a business that already had employees. If you open the doors blank, you can hire your own people. If you’re taking over a business and employees are already there, take the time to get to know them. Don’t just clear house. Give them a chance and make them feel valued. If you do that, your employees will respect you. Also, don’t expect to be working nine to five. That’s the reality but the benefits will outweigh the hours.”

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