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I-Team: Watertown Long-Term Care Facility Investigated For Possible Abuse, Neglect

BOSTON (CBS) -- Looking at photos of Jean Donnelly's face all bruised brought tears to her daughter's eyes. "It was horrific she had a huge gash on her forehead and a lump the size of a golf ball, her whole face was bruised," Kelly Farah told WBZ-TV's I-Team.

It happened in March. Jean has dementia and was living at Vero Health & Rehab of Watertown, a long-term care facility. Police were called to the home.

Jean's other daughter, Maureen Rossi said, "when the police got there, that's when a nurse said to the police officer she has a history of hitting herself. That's not a history my mother had."

Police concerned about possible elder abuse forwarded Jean's case to the state and the Middlesex County District Attorney.

"The state has to step up people have to be responsible these are our parents," said Rossi.

Sources say prosecutors are now investigating Jean's case and several others. The I-Team has learned between 2019 and 2020 there were 272 calls to 911 from the home -- some made by the residents themselves.

The reports of those incidents obtained by the I-Team reveal a troubling history that includes: firefighters finding an injured resident alone lying on the floor asking for help. When asked why no one was helping him, the woman in charge laughed.

After getting a call about a patient's ventilator not working correctly, firefighters found none of the electrical outlets were working in the room. And just recently, first responders called for a patient having difficulty breathing saw staff members performing CPR on the man who police believe had been deceased for several hours.

Attorney David Hoey has been practicing nursing home law for decades. He told the I-Team, "We are a bad state in time for people living in nursing homes."

He said with the state halting annual inspections of nursing homes during the coronavirus pandemic, there is very little oversight and virtually no enforcement for what is happening in the nursing homes either by the Department of Public Health or the courts.

Documents reviewed by the I-Team found the state recently cited the facility as deficient in COVID-19 infection control. Medicare surveys call the overall quality of care below average.

"It was the worst thing we did, put her there," said Rossi.

Jean's family has moved her to a new facility. They are now demanding more be done to keep long-term care residents safe especially during COVID.

"These people don't have their families visiting them, they are unable to check on their loved ones. God knows what could be happening," said Farah.

WBZ-TV contacted Vero Health & Rehab which runs eight long-term care facilities in Massachusetts. A spokesperson said it does not comment on facilities or operations.

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