Interpretations of family carer empowerment in much nursing research, and in home-care practice and policy, rarely attend explicitly to families' choice or control about the nature, extent or length of their involvement, or control over the impact on their own health. In this article, structural empowerment is used as an analytic lens to examine home-care nurses' interactions with families in one Western Canadian region. Data were collected from 75 hrs of fieldwork in 59 interactions (18 nurses visiting 16 families) and interviews with 12 nurses and 11 family carers. Generally, nurses prioritized client empowerment, and their practice with families appeared oriented to supporting their role and needs as carers (i.e. rather than as unique individuals beyond the caring role), and reinforcing the caring role through validation and recognition. Although families generally expressed appreciation for these interactions, a structural empowerment lens illustrates how the broad context of home care shapes the interpretation and practice of empowerment in ways that can, paradoxically, be disempowering for families. Opportunities to effectively support family choice and control when a client is being cared for at home are discussed.