It does not happen often, but it does happen: patients, usually elderly, are admitted to a hospital, cannot make their own medical decisions, and no family members can be found to help with those decisions or post-hospitalization care.

iStock_000001497717XSmallSo the patient remains in the hospital – sometimes for weeks, sometimes for months.

This can especially be a problem for private safety-net hospitals, which typically serve communities with larger numbers of low-income, elderly, and homeless residents.
When a number of such cases occurred over a short period of time in one Washington, D.C. hospital, that hospital turned to its local hospital association, which created a “guardianship task force” to examine the problem and explore potential solutions.

Learn more about the problem and the solutions the task force developed to deal with this occasional but very expensive problem – keeping such patients in the hospital costs about $2500 a day – in this Washington Business Journal article.