The percentage of elderly people in nursing homes increases with age from 7% for adults aged 75-84 years to 20% for those over 85 years old. Limited research has been done with elderly people whose admission to a nursing home was planned or unplanned. This study addressed: what are the initial experiences of elderly people in making the transition to nursing home life when the admission was planned or unplanned? A grounded theory approach using constant comparative methods was used to discover the process and patterns of transition to nursing home life. Data were collected 24 hours after admission and every other day for 2 weeks, and 1 month post-admission using in-depth semistructured interviews and field notes. Data analysis demonstrated that the transition to nursing home life occurred in three phases: overwhelmed, adjustment and initial acceptance phase. The phases of adjustment are discussed along with interventions to assist older adults in making this transition.