Background: Care for people with advanced dementia requires a palliative approach targeted to the illness trajectory and tailored to individual needs. However, care in nursing homes is often compromised by poor communication and limited staff expertise. This paper reports the protocol for the IDEAL Project, which aims to: 1) compare the efficacy of a facilitated approach to family case conferencing with usual care; 2) provide insights into nursing home-and staff-related processes influencing the implementation and sustainability of case conferencing; and 3) evaluate cost-effectiveness. Design/Methods: A pragmatic parallel cluster randomised controlled trial design will be used. Twenty Australian nursing homes will be randomised to receive either facilitated family case conferencing or usual care. In the intervention arm, we will train registered nurses at each nursing home to work as Palliative Care Planning Coordinators (PCPCs) 16 h per week over 18 months. The PCPCs' role will be to: 1) use evidence-based 'triggers' to identify optimal time-points for case conferencing; 2) organise, facilitate and document case conferences with optimal involvement from family, multi-disciplinary nursing home staff and community health professionals; 3) develop and oversee implementation of palliative care plans; and 4) train other staff in person-centred palliative care. The primary endpoint will be symptom management, comfort and satisfaction with care at the end of life as rated by bereaved family members on the End of Life in Dementia (EOLD) Scales. Secondary outcomes will include resident quality of life (Quality of Life in Late-stage Dementia [QUALID]), whether a palliative approach is taken (e.g. hospitalisations, non-palliative medical treatments), staff attitudes and knowledge (Palliative Care for Advanced Dementia [qPAD]), and cost effectiveness. Processes and factors influencing implementation, outcomes and sustainability will be explored statistically via analysis of intervention 'dose' and qualitatively via semi-structured interviews. The pragmatic design and complex nature of the intervention will limit blinding and internal validity but support external validity. Discussion: The IDEAL Project will make an important contribution to the evidence base for dementia-specific case conferencing in nursing homes by considering processes and contextual factors as well as overall efficacy. Its strengths and weaknesses will both lie in its pragmatic design. Trial registration: Australian New Zealand Clinical Trials Registry (ANZCTR) ACTRN12612001164886. Registered 02/11/2012.