Objective: The authors' objective was to investigate reasons for referral of elderly nursing home residents for psychiatric consultation and the relationship of these reasons for referral to psychiatric diagnoses. Method: They examined 197 nursing home residents consecutively referred to a consulting team in a university-affiliated mental health center. These patients represented all patients evaluated by the consulting team at six nursing homes over a 2-year period (Sept. 1, 1984, through Aug. 30, 1986). Results: Reasons for referral were diverse but fell into seven broad clusters: behavioral problems; mood-related problems; consultations requested by involuntary treatment services, patients, physicians, or other referring agencies; psychotic features; physical signs; impaired activities of daily living; and other. Behavioral problems were most commonly cited and tended to be associated with dementia diagnoses. Mood-related reasons for referral were most strongly associated with diagnoses of affective disorders, and diagnoses of schizophrenia and adjustment disorder were each associated with two or more reasons for referral. However, reasons for referral were distributed widely across diagnostic groups and were relatively weak predictors of diagnoses. Conclusions: The results illustrate the variety of problems for which nursing home staff are willing to seek psychiatric consultation but emphasize the need for professional psychiatric evaluation to establish a diagnostic base on which treatment interventions can be built.