A study to identify informal caregivers' perceptions of factors promoting or inhibiting their participation in the care of elderly patients was conducted An open-ended questionnaire was completed by 369 informal caregivers during 2-month periods in late 1991,1992 and 1993 Several factors related to the patient, informal caregiver, nurse and environment were identified The findings and implications for nursing are discussed The data presented here are from a larger study which is reported in earlier issues of the Journal of Advanced Nursing