Patients in nursing homes sometimes give accounts of episodes in which they feel their autonomy and/or self-respect are violated as a result of the care they receive from nursing staff. In these ethically difficult care situations nurses use strategies such as negotiation, explanation and, in some cases, restraint. This study investigates how nurses apply these strategies to resolve ethical dilemmas in such a way that patients experience respect rather than violation. Critical issues that will be discussed include the definition of ethically difficult care situations in nursing homes and the identification of strategies for resolving such situations. Examples of the use of three strategies are presented. The use of negotiation, restraint and explanation are discussed in order to ensure respect for patients' autonomy and thus to optimize health care outcomes.