What is a LTACH? . . . and How Can it Benefit My Critically Ill or Catastrophically Injured Loved One?

Fredrick P. Niemann, Esq., a NJ Elder Law Attorney

Medical science has made great strides in the last 30 years.  We are certainly living longer.  Illnesses and injuries that in the past resulted in death, now do not.  However, the recovery period can be a long one, especially for the elderly, whose recuperative abilities are not the same as younger patients.  As a result, patients remain hospitalized longer and bounce back and forth between nursing home and hospital, in so many cases.

That’s where the long-term acute care hospital or LTACH, comes in.  General hospitals are typically paid a standard fee for a diagnosis so they earn more for a quicker patient discharge.  At the same time, the patient may not quite be ready for a sub-acute facility in a nursing home, which focuses primarily on rehabilitation but can’t provide the medical care of a hospital.  The LTACH can bridge that gap.  Patients receive the benefit of physicians on duty around the clock as well as nurses, respiratory therapists, case managers, physical and occupational therapists, dieticians and pharmacists, all on staff.  LTACHs provide more nursing care than on a medical-surgical floor of a hospital but less than is provided in an intensive care unit.

Many LTACH patients use ventilators to breath and are recovering from multiple medical conditions such as heart failure, major surgery, etc.  They may have developed complications such as bed sores.  The specialty hospital can concentrate on weaning the patient off of the ventilator or providing wound care, for example, that can require weeks of care, that the general hospital won’t receive payment for.  For those on Medicare, LTACHs are covered under Part A.  The average stay in an LTACH is 25 days.

There are over 400 LTACHs nationwide and 8 in New Jersey.  Most are housed in general hospitals, however, some are freestanding, such as Select Specialty Hospital in Rochelle Park, New Jersey which is owned by the same company that also owns Kessler Institute, the facility that specializes in the treatment of spinal cord injuries.  The long term acute care hospital is definitely an option families should explore for their critically ill or catastrophically injured loved one.  It may very well improve the recovery process and increase the chance that a loved one can ultimately return home.

For further information and advice in any elder law matter, do not hesitate to contact me at 732-863-9900, or fniemann@hnlawfirm.com/.

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