To investigate why older people with high support needs entered residential care and who made that decision. Longitudinal study in three New Zealand cities. Participants: older people (n = 144); (unpaid) caregivers (n = 47); service co-ordinators (n = 12); multidisciplinary team members (n = 4). Questionnaires: InterRAI Minimum Data Set Assessments Home Care; Caregiver Reaction Assessment; Mastery and control. Semi-structured interview questions focussing on decision-making, and concerns that might result in residential care entry.