An identified need exists to have guardians appointed through the court systems for hundreds of Washington, DC, nursing home residents who are incapable, either temporarily or permanently, to make decisions relevant to their medical care.
Nursing homes have sought relief from Legal Counsel for the Elderly but were told that its case load is already overburdened and cannot handle any more clients. Additionally, the organization suggested that private nursing homes should incur the expense of obtaining courtappointed guardians for Medicaid patients, the cost of which could run into the thousands of dollars per resident. With an estimated 535 nursing home residents in Washington, DC, in need of such services, the burden would be overwhelming.
Gail Jernigan, administrator at Washington Nursing Facility, has begun to address this serious problem, along with Barbara McKenna, representative of Health Care Institute, and local ombudsmen. The group is working with community volunteer advocates and nursing home staff to contact local law schools asking for law student clinic time, volunteer lawyers from the American Bar Association, and any other help they can provide.
"When you recognize that some residents in our nursing homes may go without needed hospital care because there is no family (or no family willing) to give consent for treatment, you can understand the perpetual dilemma with which we are faced and why we seek to remedy the situation," says Jernigan.
The group explained that even competent residents, when they are in an acute state of illness, may be temporarily unable to make decisions for themselves and therefore need the back-up of a family member or court-appointed overseer.
For more information, contact Gail Jernigan, Washington Nursing Facility, 2425 25th Street, SE, Washington, DC; 202-889-3600.