The aim of this study was to determine what kind of care older patients receive in hospital during the first 72 h after admission. This was examined through four categories: patient's arrival on the hospital ward; patient's daily schedule on the ward; information and guidance; and interaction during the hospital stay. The focus was on five patients aged over 70 who had been admitted for prescribed examinations and care, including starting insulin medication, colonoscopy and a computed tomography scan of the colon. The data were collected by means of non-participant observation; interpretation was based on the method of content analysis. The results showed that the patients’ arrival on the ward consisted of routine procedures and periods of waiting. The patients’ daily schedule was determined by the ward's routines. They had very little control or influence over their own care, and limited privacy. Interaction between the patient and personnel was minimal, and lasted for only short periods of time. Patients were important sources of information for one another. There was also good cooperation among patients, helping one another to cope with minor everyday problems. It is concluded that nursing staff on the ward were preoccupied by their own routines and largely failed to take into account the views of their patients.