Eighty-three consecutive patients with organic mental disorder were studied on their first admission to a psychiatric day hospital assessment unit in a general hospital. They were evaluated medically, psychiatrically and by social work, re-evaluated after 3 months, and again after 12 months or at death. The types of care, and the number of days in each setting, were recorded. Nearly three-quarters were dead or in institutions by 12 months: those initially living with spouses did worst, and those with their children did best, while those on their own became long-stay residents in institutions. Family support seemed the most important factor determining continued life in the community, and increased help to families from social services appeared to be needed. The value of earlier psychiatric diagnosis and earlier treatment of physical ills is also discussed.