This study examines the work of community psychiatric nurses (CPNs) with elderly demented people. A total of 14 cases, taken from the caseloads of four CPNs, were examined by direct observation of CPNs' practice and in-depth interviews. The data were analysed using a method suggested by Dey (1993). The validity of the findings was checked internally by means of respondent validation and externally by CPNs from other teams working with elderly demented people. It was found that the CPNs operated two strategies: one directed towards the client and the other towards the family. The process underlying these strategies consisted of five overlapping phases: assessment, planning, intervention, evaluation, and termination. The CPNs' working process was set within a framework containing their understanding of what they understood as 'community', the management style within the team and the quality and availability of clinical supervision. This process is integrated with existing literature on community psychiatric nursing and suggestions are made regarding possible developments within the speciality.