The purpose of this study was to identify variables that might influence the behaviors of institutional caregivers when they interact with institutionalized, cognitively impaired elders. Independent variables included type of care situation, type of institution and nursing unit, and selected characteristics of both the caregiver and elder. The care situation was found to have a significant effect on caregiver behaviors. Caregiver characteristics of knowledge of dementia, experience in working with demented elders, and total years of education were significantly related to several caregiver behaviors. Elder characteristics of years of education, number of diagnoses, time on the nursing unit, age, self-care ability, and extent of dementia were related to several caregiver behaviors. Caregiver behaviors did not vary by the elder's gender. © 1993 John Wiley & Sons, Inc.