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What is a Convalescent Home?

Convalescent homes are staffed by medical professionals and provide short-term care and recovery for patients after surgeries and long-term illness. These facilities can be freestanding hospitals or hospital-based units and are a lower level extension of hospital care. They can also be referred to as an Inpatient Rehabilitation Facility (IRF), rehabilitation hospital and Skilled Nursing Facility (SNF).

Patients needing convalescent homes are typically recovering from strokes, accidental injuries or post-operative recovery. The time spent in care ranges from a few to days to six months or more. The benefits include bed, meals, medical and nursing services, lab tests, X-rays, pharmaceuticals, supplies, and other diagnostic or therapeutic services.

Nursing homes are often used interchangeably with convalescent homes. But they are not quite the same. Convalescent homes are intended for short-term recovery where rehab services (physical and occupational therapy, speech therapy, etc.) are provided with the goal of returning the patient back to their homes.

When Is A Convalescent Home Needed?

A patient's doctor in consultation with a convalescent care doctor will assess a patient's needs. To give you an idea of specific instances of care, let's look at the Medicare, Medicaid, and SCHIP Extension Act of 2007 (MMSEA).

This law states that at least 60% of cases a convalescent care facility admits must have one or more of the following 13 conditions:

  • Stroke
  • Spinal cord injury
  • Congenital deformity
  • Amputation
  • Major multiple trauma
  • Hip fracture
  • Brain injury
  • Neurological disorders (e.g., Multiple Sclerosis, Parkinson's)
  • Burns
  • Three arthritis conditions for which appropriate, aggressive, and sustained outpatient therapy has failed
  • Joint replacement for both knees or hips when the surgery immediately precedes admission, when body mass index ≥50, or age 85+.

Two Types of Convalescent Care

Generally, there are two convalescent care categories: subacute and post-acute.

Subacute care provides for patients who have received acute care (active, short-term medical care for serious trauma or illness) and still need medical or rehab care. For instance, subacute care can help patients healing from a broken hip transition to the community.

Post-acute care assists patients transitioning from the hospital back to their homes. Services include home nursing, personal care and home health care.

Convalescent Homes Staff

Each patient receives the care and therapy needed based on their particular as prescribed by a doctor. A facility's staff is made up of physicians, psychologists, rehab nurses, physical therapists, occupational therapists, speech therapists, recreational therapists, case managers, dieticians and even clergy.

Each professional is tasked with meeting a specific need of the patient. For instance, a nurse will monitor your medical needs on a 24-hour basis. And the nurse will tell what to expect of your day. You can also talk to your nurse about specific pain and other discomfort issues.

Another key member(s) of your team who is not a staffer is/are your family and friends. These loved ones can be actively involved with your recovery while you're in a facility.

Expect to spend from one to six a day, five days a week in physical, occupational and/or speech therapies depending on your personal care plan.

Convalescent Homes: A Sample Schedule

Your team of medical professionals collaborates with you to build a care plan that meets your personal goals and abilities. This is a good time to get friends and family members involved should you desire. These loved ones can be participate in your therapy sessions.

Therapy is typically scheduled Monday thru Saturday. On Sundays, you can attend a church service. Here are the kinds of therapy you'll encounter in convalescent care:

  • Occupational therapy consists of coordinating your physical and mental abilities with activities of daily living like bathing and dressing. The goal is to get you as independent as possible.
  • Speech therapists help you re-develop your communication, thinking and reasoning skills. They also help treat patients who have trouble swallowing.
  • A psychologist assists with patient motivation, attitudes and coping skills. These sessions can involve the patient's loved ones.
  • Physical therapists help you regain physical strength, endurance and coordination through a variety of exercises and activities.

Paying for Convalescent Homes

Charges for stays in convalescent homes are billed per day, as are services and medications the patient receives just like in a hospital. Payment options include Medicare and Medicaid; private insurance; employer insurance; VA benefits and worker's compensation.

  • Medicare only covers a stay of about 100 days in a skilled nursing faciltiy, covering the full cost of the first 20 days and 80% through the 100 days. It does not cover custodial care such as feeding, bathing, etc.
  • Patients with limited income or assets may qualify for Medicaid, which covers most of the cost of convalescent care.


If you need time to recuperate after a serious illness or surgery, a convalescent home is a good option. Unlike traditional nursing homes, these facilities provide mostly short-term therapy with the goal to get you back home and to be as self-sufficient as possible.

Reviewed By

Scott Witt

Elder Home Care Expert

Scott founded Select Home Care Portland in 2009 and has been helping seniors live their best life at home or in their local senior community ever since. As an advocate for seniors, the primary philosophy has been to listen, educate and provide… Learn More About Scott Witt

Written By

Jeff Hoyt

Editor in Chief

Since graduating from Harvard with an honors degree in Statistics, Jeff has been creating content in print, online, and on television. Much of his work has been dedicated to informing seniors on how to live better lives. As Editor-in-Chief of the personal… Learn More About Jeff Hoyt

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