A resident of Neville Place fell, was treated at Mount Auburn Hospital, and lived out her final days at Neville Center. There was difficult over billing at Neville Place, a family member said. (Photo: Marc Levy)

Lillian Siagel, a vibrant woman who had traveled the world, moved into Neville Place assisted living at Fresh Pond on Feb. 19. Barely a month later she fell and injured her head. She never again returned to the assisted living facility.

Lillian Siagel

Siagel spent a few days at Mount Auburn Hospital, then went into rehabilitation treatment at Neville Center, the nursing home next door to the assisted living center. Both the nursing home and the assisted living site were developed by Cambridge city agencies and have links to city government. At the nursing home, Siagel caught Covid-19. She died May 13, five days before she would have turned 90.

Although Siagel didn’t live at Neville Place for the last two months of her life, the assisted living center continued to collect money from her son, Errin Siagel, for the $4,100 rent and services such as laundry, her son says. He also paid a $5,000 deposit when she moved in, he says.

Since early June, Errin Siagel has asked officials at Neville Place repeatedly for “an accounting” of what they collected and what he owed for his mother’s care. They either didn’t respond or made promises they didn’t keep, he said Tuesday.

“They know I lost my mother; it’s a very traumatic experience,” Siagel said. “It’s amazing that someone would think this is the right way to treat someone. I’m trying to put this behind me; why torture me?”

He didn’t expect an immediate refund, just an accounting, Siagel said. “I’m not blaming them for my mother’s death, but I think to be treated this way just rubs salt in my wound.”

Response and regret

A few hours after Cambridge Day asked a spokeswoman for the company that manages Neville Place, Senior Living Residences of Braintree, to respond to Errin Siagel’s statements, Siagel received a call from Alan Lappas, the Neville Place executive director, Siagel said. Lappas left a message saying he had “overnighted a refund,” Siagel said in an email Tuesday evening.

Lappas left another voice mail Wednesday morning repeating the message about the refund and adding that “he expressed regret about how this has been handled,” Siagel said. A check was delivered Wednesday and he also got an accounting Wednesday by email, Siagel said.

Pam Maloney, spokeswoman for Senior Living Residences, declined to respond for quotation.

Tiger Lily

Lillian Siagel, who also used the first names Lily and Lita, was born and spent her early years in Shanghai, China, the daughter of a Russian immigrant, Errin Siagel said. “She spoke four languages and had a flower business. She lived all over the world and saw a lot of stuff,” he said.

According to her obituary, Lily Siagel and her family were forced to leave China in 1949 by the Communist government. She, her first husband and their son lived in Hong Kong and Italy before moving to the United States in 1951. Besides their son, Daniel, she is also survived by two children from her second marriage, Errin Siagel and Stephanie Bernier, six grandchildren and five great-grandchildren.

Lily Siagel lived in Brookline and owned a flower and floral design shop in Copley Square called Tiger Lily, the obituary said.

Never seen again in person

Errin Siagel said his mother moved into assisted living because she was having minor memory problems and needed supervision taking her prescriptions. When she fell, he was out of the country, returning to find her at the nursing home.

He and his siblings never again saw their mother in person after she left the assisted living facility, because of the prohibition on visitors imposed to protect long-term care residents from Covid-19. “Me, my brother and my sister FaceTimed with her,” Siagel said.

The obituary says the Siagel family thanked the nursing home, Neville Center, “for their exceptional care and kindness as they faced the unexpected burden of tending to patients with the coronavirus and its associated complications.” The family will hold “a celebration of Lita’s life” in the future “when hugs, tears, smiles and stories can be safely shared,” it says.

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