An advanced stage of dementia implies a loss of the ability to express emotions verbally. However, this does not mean that these patients do not feel emotions anymore. Analyses of nonverbal behaviour are the only way to realise the aim of assessing emotional states in people suffering from severe dementia. In the present study, we tried to identify characteristic situations which are regularly accompanied by positive or negative emotions. Such situations should be described by members of the institutional staff. Moreover, patients' nonverbal behaviour was analysed with psychological instruments developed for analyses of mimic expressions of emotion (FACS, EMFACS). Twenty-nine female residents of nursing homes suffering from moderate or severe dementia participated in the study. Nearly all of them were perceived to show different emotional states by the staff. Most emotions seemed to occur regularly in specific situations. Measures of FACS and AMFACS suggest that predictions of the staff are highly valid. Analyses of situations which were said to be accompanied by positive emotions showed that the respective situations are often created by the residents themselves. This finding implies that even an advanced stage of dementia does not necessarily prevent people from leading a self-determined life. Concentrated and individualised attention enables the staff to shape positive emotions in residents suffering from moderate or severe dementia.