Agitation was studied in 66 nursing home residents from two nursing units for agitated, cognitively deteriorated elderly. The frequency of occurrence of manifestations of various agitated behaviors was documented by nursing home staff using a seven-point was frequency rating scale. Additionally, the factors of age, cognitive level, activities of daily living (ADL) functioning, frequency of waking up at night, and medication for agitation were monitored, and nurses' attributions for agitation in each individual were reported. Results indicated that: agitated behaviors were strongly interrelated; specific nonaggressive behaviors, such as pacing and constant request for attention, occurred most frequently; in this very agitated and cognitively deteriorated group, agitated individuals did not differ from nonagitated persons in age, cognitive level, and waking up at night; agitated individuals received more medication for agitation and had a higher incidence of falls as compared with nonagitated people; and the most frequent medications given for agitation were thioridazine and haloperidol. The study is viewed as a preliminary effort to understand the phenomenon of agitation. Results serve as indicators for future research and demonstrate the widespread implications of research for handling and preventing agitation as well as for policy planning with regard to placement and reimbursement.