Among elderly nursing home patients, urinary incontinence is a prevalent and costly condition. In seven nursing homes studied, 419 (50%) of the elderly patients were incontinent of urine. Most had been incontinent at admission (64%), had more than one incontinent episode per day or a catheter (72%), and had concomitant fecal incontinence (64%). The majority of incontinent patients had substantial cognitive impairment and limitations in mobility. The severity of these impairments was related to the extent of incontinence. Complications such as urinary tract infection and skin breakdown occurred in almost 45% and were more common in patients with catheters. Physicians recorded incontinence as a problem, or any efforts to evaluate it, in the nursing home records of less than 15% of these patients.