The aim of this study was to investigate what the presence of family members meant to patients in intensive care units. The study employed a qualitative approach with semi-structured interviews and qualitative content analysis. Eleven intensive care patients were interviewed at a university hospital in Norway. The results of the study indicated that the patients desired some limitation of visitors' presence and preferred visits only from those who were closest in daily life. Visits had a variety of functions for intensive care patients, including promoting support for patients and families. However, visits also caused stress for patients and worries about creating stress for family members. The patients' requirements for information differed. The findings suggest that information to the families is important for the patients need for reality orientation. Visits in intensive care units and information to the families have mutual importance for the patients and their families. The study supports prior claims that flexible visiting routines are challenging for ICU nurses. A dialogue with the families is recommended in order to find a balance between the social support and the stress caused by visits. This puts the families in a better position to give support to the patients during recovery.