Up to a thousand men and women may be held against their will in care homes around the country.
The figures are part of a new campaign to highlight how older people, including some in nursing homes, could return to their own home with some extra help.
The statistics have been compiled by Sage Advocacy, which is a support service for vulnerable adults.
Its spokeswoman Valerie Cox says they have proof of people being kept against their will.
Ms Cox said: "Rosie was one of our clients, an 85-year-old lady, who spent nine months in a nursing home.
"When she tried to leave the staff threatened to call the Gardaí. She contacted us and she is now back in her own home.
"So, the question here is, is it care or is it custody?"