Hospital visits for people living with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) continue to rise for many reasons, including increased symptoms or not taking medication correctly that can lead to dangerous health scares.

When managing COPD becomes difficult on a day-to-day basis, treatment at a long-term acute care hospital (LTACH) offers care that is designed specifically for you or a loved one, far beyond what is possible in a nursing facility or home care setting. This special care is provided by highly trained therapists and caregivers, and can help your loved one experience faster recovery, better overall health and less likelihood of going to back to the emergency room.

Why Transitional Care Hospitals Are Ideal for Advanced COPD Treatment

What to Expect at a LTACH

If your loved one is living with advanced COPD, they may need a tracheostomy, which is a surgical procedure that helps clear the airway or allow for a ventilator to be placed to supply air to the lungs. This often takes place in the emergency room. When their health is stable, the care team at the LTACH determines the best treatment plan for your loved one's specific condition, based off of a comprehensive assessment.

At the beginning of the stay at a LTACH, the focus is on getting your loved one's symptoms under control and increasing their pulmonary strength. Respiratory therapists use special equipment, like bronchodilators, that correctly send the right dose of medication directly into your loved one's lungs and airways.

As your loved one begins to regain strength in their body and lungs, the “weaning” process begins where the care team slowly begins allowing them to breathe on their own without the ventilator for short periods of time, and increasing the time gradually. Eventually, they may breathe on their own or only require supplemental oxygen. Once your loved one is successfully off of the ventilator, the tracheostomy is removed. At this point, they should be able to participate more actively in physical and occupational therapy.

Recovery, Transitioning Home and Long-term Care

A typical stay at a LTACH can be anywhere from a couple of weeks to a month or even longer, depending on the extent of your loved one’s COPD and other factors. During their stay, they will receive ongoing pulmonary care, supervision from physician specialists and education on their condition and medications, which is also available to any family members who may be helping with care. Dedicated physical and occupational therapists will help your loved one increase strength and independence to return home or to a lower level of care.

In addition to therapy, the care team in the LTACH can help reduce symptoms and improve your loved one's quality of life through care such as:

  • Direct and clear communication between the caregiving team, family members and the patient, helping set a long-term plan and empowering family members to be effective caregivers.
  • Guidance on how to make healthy choices about diet and weight loss, quitting smoking and eliminating other risk factors.
  • Education about the importance of staying up to date on their vaccinations and routine check-ups.
  • Strategies and tactics to ensure your loved one knows how to take their medications and understands other instructions about their recovery.

Many people diagnosed with COPD can successfully go on to manage their disease and live full, active lives with proper identification and management. A long-term acute care hospital can help individuals recover when the disease takes a turn for the worse, offering a level of care and experience that skilled nursing centers or nursing homes don’t typically provide.

If you have questions about long-term acute care services and COPD, call 1.866.KINDRED to speak with a Registered Nurse 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Our nurses can answer your questions about COPD treatment and help determine if the type of care we offer is right for you or your loved one.

By Mel Bearns