The term convalescent homes is often used interchangeably with nursing or rest homes, but there are some differences between these institutions. Convalescent homes are primarily designed to provide a home-like environment while patients recover from long term illnesses or medical procedures. Many residents anticipate a return to their own homes after recovery, although some will remain for the rest of their natural lives. Nursing or rest homes are more likely to house long-term residents who may or may not require the same level of medical attention.
Convalescent homes generally provide a combination of medical services and support staff. Post-surgical patients, especially the elderly, may be assigned to one by their healthcare provider for long or short term physical therapy and monitored recovery. Others suffering from chronic illnesses such as cancer or advanced diabetes may be kept in such facilities to minimize transportation needs between treatments. Family members often prefer the constant supervision provided there when compared to maintaining care at the patient's own home.
Because of the additional medical services and level of supervision, convalescent homes may be more expensive than assisted-living apartments or long-term rest homes. Medicare and other insurance plans cover many of the expenses, but often these benefits are limited. Patients receive nutritious meals and other essential services, often in a very pleasant environment, but they can still feel like institutions, so many administrators encourage group activities and supervised outings. Families are also encouraged to visit patients regularly. Local religious and charitable organizations also make routine visits to these institutions to provide special services or entertainment.
Convalescent homes have waned in popularity over the years. It was not uncommon for pregnant women in the 1950s to spend time in special homes during and after their pregnancies. Children with special medical needs would also be housed in similar facilities until they could resume their normal lives. With advancements in medicine and home health treatments, however, the need to keep the chronically ill in institutions has decreased dramatically. Today's homes are generally reserved for elderly patients with long-term medical needs or those who need longer recovery times following surgery.