Have you ever received care in an intensive care unit, or had a loved one who did? If so, you are likely familiar with the mixed emotions and feelings that may come afterward. On one hand, you feel relieved to be stable enough to continue your recovery, but on the other hand, care in an ICU setting can be traumatic to emotions and your body.

The Society of Critical Care Medicine recognizes how important it is to support people in this circumstance by identifying a collection of disorders common to people who experience critical illness and intensive care. Those conditions are referred to as post-intensive care syndrome, or PICS.

Image of a senior female patient in a hospital bed speaking with her nurse about her plan of care

What is Post-Intensive Care Syndrome?

Intensive care can affect a person’s body, thoughts, feelings, mind and interactions with friends or family. As a loved one transitions out of intensive care, they may not have the same abilities physically, mentally or emotionally as they did before.

This is referred to as post-intensive care syndrome, or PICS. It can be as obvious as weakened muscles, or less obvious like problems with thinking and judgment, depression or anxiety. The risk that your loved one may experience PICS increases if they:  

  • Were in the ICU longer than three to five days

  • Have an infection or sepsis that needs daily care

  • Multiple affected organs like their lungs, kidney, skin, heart, brain or others

  • Need a mechanical ventilator to help them breathe

  • Weakness from degenerated nerves and muscle

  • Poor nutrition

  • Trouble with attention, memory or reasoning

  • Post-traumatic stress disorder symptoms with frightening memories or hallucinations

If your loved one is experiencing any of the above, they may need more time to recover and work on regaining key functions of their daily life.

Where Can You Receive Treatment for PICS?

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid support long-term acute care hospitals, or LTACHs, such as Kindred Hospitals, as an appropriate next level of care for people leaving intensive care who need more time and care in a hospital setting to start their journey to wellness.

These LTACH hospitals offer in-depth care, like that you would receive in a traditional hospital or intensive care unit, but with access to a team of specialists who work together to guide your care when you need additional time to recover after a hospital stay.

What Can You Expect at the LTACH?

People typically come to these long-term acute care hospitals and ICUs for about 14 to 30 days. These hospitals specialize in:

  • Helping people wean off of a mechanical ventilator

  • Providing occupational, physical and speech therapy

  • Ensuring daily physician visits with a full-staff of specialists when necessary

  • Assisting with pain management

  • Prevention and treatment of Infection and sepsis

  • Preparing people for a lower level of care through family-focused discharge planning

What If You’ve Never Heard of Long-term Acute Care Hospitals?

Because these hospitals are specialized to treat people experiencing critical illness or injury, many people have not heard of them. However, Congress and Medicare have acknowledged the value LTACH hospitals play in supporting the recovery of chronically, critically ill people, like those experiencing PICS.

At Kindred, we’re devoted to compassionate, quality care for PICS patients. As a result, our Kindred long-term acute care hospitals:

  • Treated the most seriously ill and medically complex patients, sending more than 67% of our patients home or to a lower setting of care in 2017

  • Reduced unwanted trips to the hospital within 30 days of leaving our long-term acute care hospitals to just 8.33% in 2016 and 8.10% in 2017

If you have questions about PICS or LTACH hospital-level of care, call 1.866.KINDRED to speak with a Registered Nurse 24 hours a day, seven days a week. We’re here to listen, and we can help.

If you think your loved one is experiencing PICS, speak with their physician about your options or use one of the resources below:

  • Check out icusteps.org or read more about PICS

  • Learn about local support groups emerging across the country to provide support to people and their loved ones experiencing the after-effects of the ICU

Do you have experience with PICS? Let us know in the comments section.

By Blair Klayko