Portugal, as the other European countries, faces an increase of elderly dependant persons. This situation has considerable implications for families, frequently called upon to provide caring tasks. Portugal may be considered as having followed a specific pathway regarding the reconciliation of work and family life. On the one hand, norms emphasize a strong full-time work ethic, for both men and women and growing state support for families and care services; on the other hand, stress is laid on strong family obligations to care. In this paper we analyze the strategies of families in the context of this cultural double bind, whilst caring for dependent elderly parents. Qualitative interviews were carried out with adult children working full time and caring for a parent. Adopting a work-life balance perspective, we address the diversity of care arrangements identified, carers’ perceptions of the main difficulties and pressures experienced, as well as the support they can rely upon in order to deal with the situation. The conclusion stress how the plurality of care arrangements is leading to a move away from a familistic care regime towards a more mixed care regime, combining both family care and formal paid services in diverse and complex ways.
Keywords: Work-life balance, Elderly care, Care arrangements, Carers’ perspective.