In the era of global ageing, amid political concerns about increasing care needs and long-term sustainability of current care regimes, most high-income economies are seeking to minimise the use of institutional care and to expand formal home care for their older populations. In long-term care reforms, concerns about public funding, formal providers and the paid care workforce are foremost. However, an integral yet hidden part of all these reforms is the stealthily growing role of family carers. This article aims to identify and spell out how developments in formal home care bring about different modes of increasing, encouraging and necessitating family care inputs, across welfare states. Using secondary sources, three different modes were identified, and the article outlines the logic of each mechanism, drawing on illustrative examples of policy dynamics in both European and Asian countries. Family care inputs have increased through policy changes that are not explicitly or primarily about family care, but rather about expansion or changes in formal care. In some cases, this is explicit, in other cases something that happens 'through the back door'. Nonetheless, in all cases there are implications for the family caregivers' time, health and employment options. Future studies are needed to examine longitudinal trends from a comparative perspective to confirm our findings and elucidate how government commitments to formal home care provision and financing interact with the changing nature and volume of family caregiving.