The need to provide care for older people can put a strain on their adult children, potentially interfering with their work attendance. We tested the hypothesis that public care for older people (nursing homes or home care services) would moderate the association between having an older parent in need of care and reduced work attendance among the adult children. The analysis used data from a survey of Norwegian employees aged 45–65 (N = 529). Institutional care for older people in need of care (i.e. nursing homes) was associated with improved work attendance among their children—their daughters in particular. Data also indicated a moderating effect: the link between the parents’ reduced health and reduced work attendance among the children was weaker if the parent lived in a nursing home. However, the results were very different for home-based care: data indicated no positive effects on adult children’s work attendance when parents received non-institutionalised care of this kind. Overall, the results suggest that extending public care service to older people can improve their children’s ability to combine work with care for parents. However, this effect seems to require the high level of care commonly provided by nursing homes. Thus, the current trend towards de-institutionalising care in Europe (and Norway in particular) might hamper work attendance among care-giving adult children, women in particular. Home care services to older people probably need to be extended if they are intended as a real alternative to institutional care.