If things go according to plan, about 300 residents of the National Lutheran Home for the Aged will pack their bags next month and move from the stately, shuttered, red-brick buildings at 18th and Douglass streets NE, which the home has occupied for 90 years, to a sprawling new Rockville facility.

District and Lutheran Home officials hope this week to sign a $480,000 year's lease on the buildings, with an option to buy the 18-acre Lutheran home facility for $3.9 million by 1981.

The plan is running into some snags due to the city's current financial crunch, but city officials still expect the agreement to be finalized in light of the substantial savings expected from operating the facility over the long term.

D.C. General Hospital had originally agreed to pay as much as $760,000 for start-up costs at what will be called the Washington Center Aging Services, according to D. Richard Artis, director of the city's Office on Aging. Recent budget cuts at the hospital may jeopardize that plan, Artis said, but he expects to get the money from other city funds even if it is not available from the hospital.

The District's scheduled takeover of the complex will begin with four months of renovation, work to bring the institution up to current nursing home standards before 125 patients are transferred from D.C. General Hospital to the home.

When patients requiring long-term care are moved to the center, the city's costs for housing them will be reduced from $300 a day to as little as $50 daily.

The new center would be more than a nursing home, however. It is to be the core of what Artis calls a "cohesive, long-term service program" to meet the needs of elderly persons and also help to alleviate the city's shortage of nursing home beds.

After completion of the $1.6 million renovation project, planned for a three-to-five-year period, the center will house 275 nursing home patients, 14 "community residential facility" persons who do not need intensive nursing care, three to five "respite-care" patients who will receive short-term care as needed, and an undertermined number of "geriatric day-care" residents who require some daytime supervision but can return to their homes at night.

While the number of nursing home beds will decrease from the 307 now in the Lutheran home, Artis sees an increase in the number of beds available to the city. Lutherans are given priority in the present facility and many of the home's occupants are from Virginia, Maryland and Deleware.

"When you play it through, there are not that many Lutherans in the District of Columbia," Artis said, noting that only about 60 of the current Lutheran home residents came from the District.

Even with the 1,500 nursing home beds the city expects to have after the home is renovated, the likelihood that the District will have the 2,800 beds its health plan says will be needed by 1985 is "certainly far from a 100 percent probability," Artis said.

Moreover, Artis says, the estimate of 2,800 probably is too low. "Our best guess is that 3,100 to 3,300 beds would represent close to 100 percent need-response," he said, adding, "We'll never get that, I don't think."

The health plan, completed by the District's State Health Planning and Development Agency last November, currently is being updated at the request of the Office on Aging.

"What the plan doesn't deal with is how many people we draw from other jurisdictions," Artis said. He pointed out that of the 11 nursing homes in the District, one is the city-operated D.C. Village, three are nonsectarian and the other seven are denominational and house persons from areas outside the District.

City officials are in the process of reviewing the proposals of private operators who are bidding to run the new center.

Contracting out the operation of the facility is expected to save the city considerable money, Artis said, because it will avoid costly civil-service staffing.

Daily costs per resident at the Lutheran home are about $40, compared with $100 per day at D.C. Village, he said.

"There is no nursing home in the city with fulltime physicians, other than that one," said Artis. "They have higher standards than nursing home regulations require."

For the Lutherans, the home has become increasingly unworkable in the face of stiff federal and city nursing home regulations that have been enacted in recent years.

Dr. Richard Reichard, director of the home, said that by 1973, "it was clear to us that we would have to continually upgrade the facility or build new [TEXT OMITTED FROM SOURCE]

Another development also led the home's operators to realize that the facility was becoming obsolete. Over a long period of time, the home has admitted a smaller percentage of residents who are able to walk, and thus more of them have required close care and supervision.

Reichard attributes this change to the increase in governmental social programs such as subsidized housing, higher Social Security payments and an increase in the number of apartment complexes designed for the elderly.