What is a Long-Term Acute Care Facilities in Autism Treatment

11 Jan 2022
Discover what a long-term acute care facility is and its potential benefits in providing specialized treatment for autism.

Understanding LTAC Facilities

As the parent of a child with autism, you may have heard of Long-Term Acute Care (LTAC) facilities but perhaps you're not entirely sure about their role and purpose. This section aims to clarify 'what is a long-term acute care facility' and provide an understanding of the vital role they play within health systems.

Definition and Purpose

LTAC facilities specialize in the provision of acute care, which encompasses a broad spectrum of clinical healthcare functions. This includes emergency medicine, trauma care, pre-hospital emergency care, acute care surgery, critical care, urgent care, and short-term inpatient stabilization.

The primary purpose of acute care is to address immediate, life- or limb-threatening health conditions, irrespective of their underlying cause. Such care is time-sensitive and requires rapid intervention to be effective. It can entail promotive, preventive, curative, rehabilitative, or palliative actions, all aimed at improving health.

In the context of autism, LTAC facilities can provide an essential layer of support, offering specialized care and rehabilitation programs tailored to the unique needs of each individual.

Role in Health Systems

LTAC facilities play a critical role within the health system. They serve as an entry point to healthcare for individuals with emergent and urgent conditions, offering life-saving interventions that can prevent death and disability.

In dealing with conditions such as autism, LTAC facilities can provide the intensive, specialized care that individuals may require. This can range from therapeutic interventions to support social and communication skills, to medical care for any co-occurring physical health conditions.

The development of acute care systems, of which LTAC facilities are a part, is an urgent priority for health systems. This is due to the growing disease burden and the need to provide timely, effective care to those who need it most [1].

Understanding the role and purpose of LTAC facilities is the first step in unlocking their potential in the treatment of autism. By providing specialized, acute care, these facilities can help to improve the health and quality of life for individuals with autism, offering hope for better outcomes.

Qualifying for LTAC Care

Understanding whether your child qualifies for care in a long-term acute care facility (LTAC) is crucial. This section will cover the general eligibility criteria for LTAC admission and the insurance coverage and benefits associated with LTAC services.

Eligibility Criteria

Qualifying for long-term acute care involves having medical needs that can only be provided in a setting with nursing and medical oversight similar to that of a hospital. Specifically, LTACs are suitable for individuals whose condition has stabilized but still require acute level care which cannot be addressed at home, skilled nursing facilities, or rehabilitation centers [2].

Long-term acute care hospitals (LTACHs) provide care for severe cases where 10 to 20% of patients recovering from critical illnesses will experience persistent organ failures that require prolonged, complex medical care.

LTACHs deliver a continuation of hospital-level care in a longer-term setting for patients with complicated medical requirements, such as complex wound or burn care, severe brain injuries, respiratory therapy, or ventilator weaning. Patients at LTACHs typically see a physician every day and stay for several weeks.

The average length of stay in LTACHs must be 25 days or greater, and there must be a need for intensive medical care such as mechanical ventilation weaning, intravenous antibiotics, and complex wound care [4].

Coverage and Benefits

Once eligibility criteria are met, Medicare covers this level of care as part of the overall benefits within the benefit period. However, it is important to note that coverage might vary based on individual insurance plans and it is always advisable to verify the coverage with the insurance provider.

The benefits of LTACs include comprehensive care for chronically critically ill patients who require specialized and aggressive goal-directed care over an extended recovery period. The goal of LTAC care is to optimize the ability for patients to live independently or achieve the highest level of wellness possible.

It is important to note that LTACs are certified acute care hospitals and are held to the same accreditation and regulatory standards as traditional hospitals. This ensures that the quality of care provided in these facilities is on par with that provided in traditional hospitals.

Services Offered in LTAC Facilities

Understanding what a long-term acute care facility, often referred to as LTAC, offers is crucial for making informed health decisions for children with autism. These facilities provide specialized care and services tailored to the unique needs of each patient.

Intensive Nursing Care

At the heart of an LTAC facility is its provision of intensive nursing care. This level of care is suitable for individuals whose condition has stabilized but still require acute level care which cannot be addressed at home, skilled nursing facilities, or rehabilitation centers [2].

Intensive nursing care in an LTAC facility caters to patients with complicated medical requirements, such as complex wound or burn care, severe brain injuries, respiratory therapy, or ventilator weaning [3]. It's important to note that patients in these facilities typically see a physician every day and may stay for several weeks, depending on their individual needs and progress through the treatment program.

Rehabilitation Programs

In addition to intensive nursing care, LTAC facilities also offer rehabilitation programs. These programs aim to facilitate independence for patients and are tailored to the specific needs of each individual.

Rehabilitation in an LTAC setting may include physical, occupational, and speech therapy, among other services. The goal of these programs is to help patients regain their abilities and function to the best of their ability.

The specific rehabilitation services offered may vary from one facility to another, but all aim to provide comprehensive care that addresses the whole person, not just their symptoms or condition. By offering such comprehensive services, LTAC facilities play a crucial role in the treatment and management of complex health conditions, including autism.

In conclusion, when considering an LTAC facility for a child with autism, it's essential to understand the range of services offered. With intensive nursing care and targeted rehabilitation programs, these facilities offer a level of care that can be instrumental in supporting the health and well-being of individuals with complex needs.

Length of Stay and Discharge Planning

When considering long-term acute care facilities for the treatment of autism, one must be aware of the expected length of stay and the discharge planning process. These aspects can vary greatly depending on individual needs and the specific services provided by the facility.

Individual Needs

The length of stay in a long-term acute care facility depends largely on the individual needs of the patient and their progress through the treatment program. As per Dartmouth-Hitchcock, the facility's team works closely with the patient and their family to set achievable goals and track the progress.

Patients at long-term acute care hospitals (LTACHs) typically see a physician every day and stay for several weeks. In comparison, the average length of stay at a Skilled Nursing Facility is about four weeks, with patients committing to one to one and a half hours of therapy a day [3].

The typical patient in an LTACH has three to six concurrent active diagnoses or has suffered an acute episode on top of chronic illnesses. Under Medicare, the patient must need more than 25 days of hospitalization, and LTACH patients stay an average of 25 to 30 days with the goal of optimizing their ability to live independently or achieve the highest level of wellness possible.

Discharge Preparation

The process of discharge from a long-term acute care facility is a crucial part of the patient's journey. Discharge planning involves preparing the patient to transition from the facility to their home or another care setting. It includes coordinating with healthcare providers and caregivers, setting up home healthcare or outpatient services, arranging for equipment and supplies, and educating the family about the patient's ongoing care needs.

The aim of discharge planning is to ensure continuity of care and to prevent unnecessary readmissions. This process is individualized to meet the specific needs of each patient and their family. It's important that patients and caregivers actively participate in discharge planning to ensure a smooth transition and continued progress in the patient's treatment and recovery.

Location of LTAC Facilities

Long-Term Acute Care (LTAC) facilities can be found in various locations across the United States. These facilities are specialized-care hospitals that cater to patients with serious medical conditions, who require intensive, specialized treatment for an extended period of time—usually 20 to 30 days.

Availability in New York

As for the availability of LTAC facilities in New York, detailed and up-to-date information may be obtained by contacting local health departments or medical referral services. It's crucial to consider the proximity of these facilities to the patient's residence, as well as the specific services offered, when seeking an LTAC facility.

While the information regarding the presence of LTAC facilities in New York is not explicitly mentioned in the provided context, it's worthy to note that the absence of LTAC facilities in certain regions, such as New Hampshire or Vermont, leads to arrangements for patients requiring LTAC provided care in neighboring regions like Massachusetts.

Referral Process

The referral process to an LTAC facility typically begins with the patient's current healthcare provider. This could be the physician or medical team from an intensive care unit (ICU) of a hospital, as patients in LTAC settings often transition directly from an ICU [7].

The healthcare provider will assess the patient's condition and determine the need for long-term acute care based on various factors. These factors may include whether the patient requires services such as ventilator usage, respiratory care, IV medication or transfusions, complex wound treatment, or ongoing dialysis.

Once the need for LTAC care is established, the healthcare provider will usually handle the referral process, coordinating with the chosen LTAC facility to ensure a smooth transition of care. It's essential to maintain open communication with the healthcare provider during this process to ensure that the patient's needs are fully understood and adequately met.

Regulations and Standards

Understanding the regulations and standards for long-term acute care facilities is vital for families considering this treatment option for their autistic children. These rules ensure the safety, quality of care, and respect for patient rights within these facilities.

Licensing Requirements

Long-term acute care facilities are subject to stringent regulations and inspections by the health department. They must comply with both state and federal laws and regulations to maintain their license and continue operations. These regulations establish standards for various aspects of the facility, including construction, maintenance, operation, and staffing. Moreover, these rules specify the qualifications and training requirements for the staff employed by these facilities [8].

To adhere to these licensing requirements, it's crucial for the facilities to have protocols in place for specific scenarios. For instance, they must have procedures for organ donation, the admission or transfer of pregnant women in labor, and discharge plans for substance-abusing postpartum women and their infants.

Patient Rights and Protocols

Long-term acute care facilities are also required to have well-defined patient rights and responsibilities. These rights aim to protect the patients and ensure they receive quality care that respects their dignity and individual needs.

The facilities must have established visitation policies to ensure patients maintain contact with their loved ones. During public health emergencies, such as the COVID-19 pandemic, special protocols are in place for patient visits. For instance, nursing homes and certified nursing facilities must allow for visits at least once every 10 days for each patient. However, these visits must adhere to guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

These regulations and standards help protect the interests of patients and ensure they receive the best possible care within a safe and supportive environment. It's important for families considering this option to familiarize themselves with these rules and ensure any prospective long-term acute care facility adheres to them.


[1]: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3646345/

[2]: https://www.dartmouth-hitchcock.org/patients-visitors/long-term-acute-care

[3]: https://pamhealth.com/company/company-updates/differences-between-ltachs-irfs-and-snfs/

[4]: https://specialtyhospitalcj.com/what-is-the-difference-between-an-ltach-and-ltc/

[5]: https://www.txsha.org/Practice-Resources/Medical-Setting-Resources/LTACH

[6]: https://www.emoryhealthcare.org/locations/hospitals/emory-long-term-acute-care/about-long-term-acute

[7]: https://www.leaderstat.com/long-term-acute-care-hospitals

[8]: https://law.lis.virginia.gov/vacodefull/title32.1/chapter5/

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