As a general policy, I refuse to sew, arrange flowers or cook anything that requires more than three steps and four ingredients.
So you might think invoking Martha Stewart's name is nothing more than a transparent attempt to draw more eyeballs to this column, which most Tuesdays will be light on decorating and entertaining tips and heavy on generational issues that are profoundly impacting our nation's hospitals and health networks.
Turns out Stewart has become something of a crusader for "healthy aging," and whatever you might think of her multimedia dynasty or of the woman personally, her work on this particular issue is worth applauding. On a recent ABC News roundtable discussion called "Families on the Brink," she pointed out that even as baby boomers plunge headlong into senior citizenship, many are being called upon to care for their own elderly parents. Both old child and older parent need all the support they can get to maintain optimal physical, mental and emotional fitness.
Hospitals are finding themselves deeply involved—not only as acute care providers, but also as conveners of clinicians, support services and other resources in their communities. Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York City might be the shiniest example of that.
A few years ago, the medical center teamed up with the DIY diva to create the Martha Stewart Center for Living, which takes an impressively comprehensive approach to helping older adults and caregivers. In addition to medical care, it provides diet and exercise advice and activities that stimulate creativity, intellect and fellowship.
Mount Sinai has a long history when it comes to geriatrics. The term itself was coined in 1909 by I.L. Nascher, a Mount Sinai physician who is considered the father of geriatrics in this country. These days, in recognition of the severe shortage of geriatricians and of other physicians with even a modest understanding of the unique issues involved in caring for elderly patients, the Mount Sinai School of Medicine requires all students to do a monthlong rotation in geriatrics. It's Seniors as Mentors program matches every incoming student with an older Mount Sinai patient. And it offers "mini-fellowships" in geriatrics to non-geriatricians who teach in residency programs or medical schools. Mount Sinai faculty members continue to mentor participants after they return home.
Hospitals throughout the country are doing admirable things to meet the needs of their local aging populations. Many don't have the head start or resources—not to mention celebrity connections—to go as far as Mount Sinai has. But they can take giant steps by encouraging their own clinical staff to acquire at least a basic understanding of geriatrics, by keeping up with new technologies that allow patients to remain in their own homes, by offering advice and moral support to family caregivers, and by implementing best practices when it comes to discharge and follow-up care.
On most Tuesdays in this space, I'll pass on good ideas from the field. I invite you to share what you're doing in this area by e-mailing me at firstname.lastname@example.org. But whatever you do, please, don't ask me how to bake a souffle.