As an employee of the Washington Center for Aging Services since its inception in 1980, I want to defend the WCAS. To characterize it as "the worst nursing home in the region" {"District at Work," front page, July 25} does not describe the nursing home where I have worked for 10 years.

Certainly, we would prefer to have zero deficiencies. However, in caring for more than 260 elderly people who have many medical problems, inherent, systemic problems arise. Perhaps the stress of 24-hour-a-day, seven-days-a-week care of our patients, many of whom are in wheelchairs, some with Alzheimers, many incontinent, all unhappy about losing their independence and lonely, confused and sometimes combative, should not lead to a single problem in care. In a perfect world, it wouldn't. But ours is not a perfect world.

Running any nursing home is a challenge. The work is hard, the problems are many, salaries are low and reimbursement is inadequate. The typical nursing home resident is becoming older and needs more care; average age on admission is now 80. But the WCAS employees are trained and dedicated and accept the challenge of providing increasing care. They put forth the extra effort.

The WCAS does not have that luxury of serving only the "easier" patients or those for whom higher reimbursement is assured. The D.C. Office on Aging has consistently cared for the most difficult and most needy cases. The first residents taken into the home, for example, were "border" elderly, who had been living at D.C. General Hospital (in some cases for years), because they had nowhere to go and no one to care for them.

Of course, we want to have no deficiencies. We work to have no deficiencies. E. Veronica Pace and her D.C. Office on Aging staff hold us to the standard of no deficiencies.

To call us "the worst nursing home" in the region based on this Health Care Financing Administration report was unfair and incorrect. The WCAS is, in fact, one of the best in the region. Why not an article -- just one -- on what is good about this nursing home? Such an article would present a truer picture of the work done here and the care given and would show the public a more rounded, realistic picture of nursing homes.

-- Janet Colwell The writer directs the geriatric day-treatment program at the WCAS.