The patterns of and risk factors for mechanical restraint use were determined in 12 skilled nursing facilities. Restraints were being used for 59% of residents at the beginning of the study; 31% of remaining residents were restrained during the follow-up year. No facility characteristic was associated with restraint use. The resident characteristics independently associated with initiation of restraints were older age, disorientation, dependence in dressing, greater participation in social activities, and nonuse of antidepressants. Unsteadiness (72%), disruptive behavior such as agitation (41%), and wandering (20%) were the most frequently cited reasons for initiation of restraints.