The complex health, socioeconomic, and environmental problems experienced by many American elders often place them at high risk for disease and disability. Over time, acutely or chronically ill older persons experience numerous transitions across various health care settings. Although availability of health services is improving in rural areas, barriers such as distance, geography, and poor distribution often limit access to health care. In a longitudinal rural ethnography, the health care transition experiences of older adults, families, and health care providers were examined. A major ethnographic theme emerged from analysis data from interviews, participant observations, and photographs: the crisis nature of health care transitions experienced by rural older adults and their families and observed by rural nurses and other health care providers. Several patterns were observed including the crisis was compounded by surprise; limited knowledge of local resources exacerbated the crisis; inconsistent discharge planning disrupted transitions; changing family support necessitated admission to nursing homes; continuity of care in nursing home discharge lessened transition crisis; and rural home health care was identified as a strength. Recommendations were made for community-based interventions to improve the transition experience. Comprehensive care management services provided by public health nurses (PHNs) in the local rural community were recommended.