Understanding Long Term Acute Care
Understanding Long Term Acute Care
Long-term acute care. The term may sound a bit confusing at first, but it’s important to know what it is before you need it, according to Una Alderman, Chief Executive Officer of Northern Idaho Advanced Care Hospital.
“Most people who need inpatient healthcare services for serious injuries or illnesses are admitted to an ‘acute care’ hospital for a relatively short amount of time,” Alderman says. “But when someone is recovering from a medically complex condition, he or she may be referred to a long-term acute care hospital (LTACH) for continued care beyond the original hospital stay. This type of hospital is also certified as an acute care hospital, but specializes in long-term and critical care services.”
When patients are referred to a long-term acute care hospital like Northern Idaho Advanced Care Hospital, they usually have one or more serious conditions that require critical care services. These conditions can include respiratory failure, cardiovascular disease, trauma, infectious diseases, complex wound healing, and more.
“At a long-term acute hospital, medical services are tailored to the complex needs of each patient, and a personalized plan of care is created by an interdisciplinary team for each individual,” says Dr. Kevin Strait, Medical Director of Northern Idaho Advanced Care Hospital. “The medical team can provide services such as 24-hour nursing care, ventilator weaning, respiratory care, pain management, wound care, and physical, occupational and speech therapies, among other medical services. Being provided with this comprehensive, specialized care can be significant to a patient’s recovery process.”
Confirming this is a study published in Medical Care, a journal of the Medical Care Section of the American Public Health Association. The study shows that in most cases, medically complex and critically ill patients have better results at a long-term acute care hospital compared with similar patients in other settings. In particular, the research found lower death rates among most non-ventilator patients with multiple organ failure, and those who had spent three or more days in an acute-care hospital’s intensive care unit (ICU) prior to going to a long-term acute care hospital.
“I think the study reflects that long-term acute care hospitals are well equipped to handle medically complex conditions,” Dr. Strait says. “Through use of specialized equipment and training of staff, those of us in long-term acute care settings can offer a patient continued high-quality long-term or critical care needed so he or she can eventually be discharged either to home, a skilled nursing facility, or to an inpatient rehabilitation hospital to meet further medical needs.”
Dr. Strait suggests when looking for long-term acute care for you or a loved one, to be sure to discuss options with your physician or healthcare provider.
“Do research on facilities in your area and ask for recommendations,” he says. “I always suggest touring the hospital as well. This is a good way to get a sense of the care provided. It gives you the opportunity to observe the attitude of the staff, type of equipment, and the cleanliness of the facility. It’ll also give you a chance to ask any questions you have.”
Other items that can be reviewed with the staff include:
- healthcare specialists who will be involved in your care,
- therapy programs offered,
- nurse-to-patient ratio,
- comfortableness with private rooms and baths,
- nursing station locations,
- certifications and credentials of the staff,
- hospital accreditations and recognitions,
- patients’ results,
- level of involvement of family with patient care,
- and general information such as visitation hours or overnight policy.
In addition to choosing an appropriate facility, Strait also suggests that family members educate themselves on what to expect when a love one is in critical care.
“For a critical care patient, the road to recovery may be a long and overwhelming experience for not only him or her, but for family members as well,” he says. “So knowing what to expect can provide some ease of mind and help everyone deal with the situation better.”
Dr. Strait shares the following to help prepare for when a loved one is in critical care:
- Remember that you have an experienced team on your side. The hospital staff that’s caring for your loved one is highly skilled and prepared to treat the sickest – and most medically complex – patients. From the physicians and nurses to the respiratory therapists and dietitians – they all are specially trained to care for your loved one.
- The tubes and equipment in a critical care unit can be intimidating. But, they all have a role and purpose in providing your loved one with the intensive healthcare that he or she needs. The healthcare team will be able to explain the role of any equipment to help you better understand what it happening.
- Information overload can – and most likely will – occur. Everything will be new to you from the equipment and noises to the procedures and health professionals. Take a deep breath. Once you get your bearings, think of how you can best keep track of information. Write in a notebook. Keep notes on your phone. Jot down items like key information, questions you want to ask, purpose of treatments, and names of hospital personnel.
- Expect peaks and valleys. Critical care can be a bumpy ride. Some days will be better than others. As much as possible, try to be patient and keep perspective.
- Talk to your loved one. Communicating with your loved one is important for not only him or her, but for your entire family. Often patients can hear while in critical care. Speak calmly and clearly, and make short, positive statements. Hold your loved one’s hand or touch him or her gently if a member of the healthcare team says it’s OK.
- Take care of yourself. It may be a long road to recovery, so be sure to take time for you. Sleep, eat, and shower. Don’t be afraid to leave the room for a bit. The healthcare team will be there 24/7 to provide care.
Northern Idaho Advanced Care Hospital is a 40-bed, free-standing facility providing long-term acute care and critical care services for patients recovering from serious illnesses, illnesses or chronic medical conditions. It is the first hospital in Idaho to earn The Joint Commission’s national certification in Respiratory Failure. For more information, call 208-262-2800 and visit NIACH.ernesthealth.com.