Companies looking to maintain and grow must stay focused on the bottom line. In order to do so, it is necessary for business owners and managers to consistently look at how they can increase productivity and cut on expenses. One of the factors directly impacting that bottom line is our aging population.

According to the 2006 MetLife study of caregiving costs, U.S. business can lose as much as $34 billion each year due to employees’ need to care for loved ones 50 years of age and older.

While there are policies in place for parents needing to provide care or take time away from work for children, employers often overlook the needs of employees faced with the challenge of providing care for an aging or ill loved one. Employers also don’t always realize how much caregivers in the workplace can cost a business.

Data from the National Family Caregivers Association states that 56 percent admit to modifying their work schedules; 85 percent admit to coming in late or leaving early; and 38 percent admit to altering their work-related travel.

There are a number of key issues and challenges that employers face.

To begin, many business owners do not recognize the financial impact caregivers have on their business. Caregiver’s issues will often arise during work hours, requiring an employee to take time off to provide necessary care. In addition, the stress of juggling the demands of work and providing care simultaneously, can impact the overall health, productivity and effectiveness of an employee.

Given the statistics, 41 percent of all Baby Boomers provide care for a living parent and 37 percent expect to do so in the future – employers must consider programs and practices in the workplace that will provide support for employees and protect the bottom line.

The question then is, what should an employer do?

Fortunately, there are a number of resources and options to help offset these challenges.

Employers can provide access to a recommended list of adult day care programs or facilities, placement counselors and assisted care providers to help employees build a circle of support. They can offer education and information by bringing in an outside agency to offer seminars, resources and support. They may also consider establishing an employee wellness program to help employees take better care of themselves and their loved ones.

To address the need for time, consider developing a policy for flexible work schedules or using technology so employees can conduct some of their work from home. Allowing employees the time they need to provide care and still fulfill their responsibilities to work can help alleviate stress, increase productivity and improve employee retention – all of which positively impacts the bottom line.