Lost productivity due to demands of caring for aging family members costs U.S. employers more than $17 billion per year, according to a new study.

For caregivers providing the most intense levels of care, the cost per employee is $2,441 a year, or a total of $17 billion, according to a study commissioned by the MetLife Mature Market Institute, Westport, Conn., and the National Alliance for Caregiving, Bethesda, Md.

For all employee caregiving, the average cost is $2,110 per year, or an annual total of about $34 billion.

The study defines intense care as lasting from 12 hours to 87 hours a week.

Since 1997, when MetLife first did the study, costs of caregiving have increased nationwide by about $4 billion for both levels of care.

“Working caregivers who juggle work and caregiving responsibilities make many workplace adjustments, such as coming in late or leaving early, reducing their work schedules or dropping out of the workforce entirely,” says Sandra Timmermann, director of the MetLife Mature Market Institute.

Total estimated costs include losses from replacing employees, absences, workday interruptions and supervisory time, according to the institute, which is affiliated with a unit of MetLife Inc., New York.