The aim of this study was to describe, through observations and interviews with patients >/=75 years old and the relatives who accompanied them to the hospital, the conditions at the emergency department (ED) and the events that took place during the waiting period. Twenty older patients were studied, together with their relatives. A modification of a comparative design, the interpretative method 'grounded theory', was utilized. Open, nonparticipant observations were carried out; from the time patients were admitted until the time they were discharged. Patients were observed through all stages, for example, in the reception area, in the examination room, and in the X-ray department. The observations were supplemented with field notes and interviews with the older patients as they left the ED. The selective coding developed into six core-variables that were the focus of the material. These were: unpleasant waiting, unnecessary waiting, lack of good routines during the waiting stage, suffering during the waiting stage, bad feelings during the waiting stage and nursing care during the waiting stage. The way, in which nursing care was carried out, which in this context is discussed in terms of praxis and poieses, appeared to be of major importance for the older peoples' experiences when visiting the ED.