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Former employee says five seniors have died since Spokane retirement home closure

SPOKANE, Wash. - Pat Menke calls her mother-in-law Evy Lund, 91, a "Great Dane in a Chihuahua's body." Evy embodied that back in October, when she took a stand for the seniors being forced from The Academy Retirement Community at a meeting with Councilwoman Kate Burke.

The Academy was sold to Stellar Senior Living, a Utah-based company, which plans to turn the building into apartments.

"I don't want to move from here!," Evy exclaimed to Burke.

After the meeting, Evy sat down with KXLY to talk about her frustrations.

"Makes us feel really sad. Sad and mad," Lund said. "Everybody's losing things. Everybody can't go where they want to go. Everybody's getting confused. And we aren't comfortable with it at all."

Pat said when Evy's husband passed away, she became lonesome. That all changed when she found The Academy.

"The first place we looked at, actually was the Academy and she really liked it. We loved the building, the atmosphere and she participated in all the activities. She was on the Wii bowling team, she did the exercises, and Tai Chi," Pat said. "They ate together, they socialized together, did activities together. And so knowing they were all going to be split up was the worst."

Evy stayed at her new place the night of the meeting with Burke, after weeks of coming to grips with the idea of moving. Just three days later, Pat said she found Lund laying on the floor. She had a stroke and died a week later. 

"When I called my mom when I was on my way to the hospital, I said I'm sad and mad," Pat said. "I was so sad it happened, but there was anger that I think this, it just accelerated it. It brought it on at this time."

Pat said she can't say being forced out of The Academy caused the stroke, but she believes that stress had something to do with it. She says Evy was healthy for her age, with only back and knee pain.

"If she would've had a stroke at The Academy with her normal life, we would've been so accepting this was her time," Pat said. "It seemed unfair. It seemed that she had a lot of life in her, and we'll never know that."

Tracy Helling, who worked as The Academy's assistant activity director for five years, said there are even more stories like Evy's.

Helling told KXLY in an exclusive interview since tenants were told they had 30 days to move at the end of August, five tenants have died.

"It became clearer that there was nowhere to go back to. My home is gone. I have no home. All of my friends are gone," Helling remembered of one former tenant. "And she gave up."

"It's excruciating, quite frankly. We couldn't protect them," Helling said. "These are not people that have a lot of money. These are people that skimped and saved."

Helling said some former tenants are paying $600 to $1,000 more at their new homes across the city. Some have been separated from their best friends.

"One of them would have the financial means to move to a place that the other did not have the financial means to move to," Helling said. "So they were torn apart."

Helling told KXLY some seniors will have to move yet again because they can't afford where they're living now or are not getting proper care for their conditions. She said any stress can be debilitating for seniors.

"All kinds of things happen to your body. It's very easy to get sick, much like very very small children. It doesn't take a lot for a lot to put you down for a little bit," Helling said. "Everybody can die fairly easily when you get to advanced ages. But the fact is none of them wanted to die."

Tracy said many residents are adjusting to new homes. She's working with city council to make sure something like this doesn't happen again.

"We haven't forgotten them. We're still family. And they're coping, but they're homesick," she said. "We hope that they'll be able to put down roots. I just, we can do better than this."


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