Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York City has long been recognized as a leader in the field of geriatric medicine. In fact, in 1909, a Mount Sinai faculty member coined the term "geriatrics" and wrote the first textbook on the subject shortly thereafter.
It was with this in mind that Martha teamed up with Mount Sinai to open the Martha Stewart Center for Living (MSCL), specializing in elder care and dedicated to her beloved mother, Martha Kostyra, in November of 2007.
An outpatient facility serving close to 3,000 older adults, the MSCL offers whole patient care, including advice about diet, exercise, and care-giving with a focus on helping the aging American population grow old gracefully, healthfully, and well. The center's symbol is the bonsai tree, a plant that gets more beautiful -- and valuable -- with age.
Improving Geriatric Medicine
Dr. Audrey Chun, medical director of the Martha Stewart Center for Living, and Dr. Albert Siu, Ellen and Howard Katz chairman of the geriatrics department at Mount Sinai Medical Center, say that while elder care has come a long way in the last century, there is still a challenging road ahead.
Our society has not traditionally concerned itself with the needs of aging citizens. When the first United States census was taken in 1790, less than 2 percent of Americans were 65 and older. But in 2011, the first of 78 million baby boomers will start turning 65. As people continue to live longer, doctors are learning that each patient ages differently, and the field is becoming more sophisticated about understanding these differences. In order to continue improving elder care, public perception of older adults and the people who care for them must also improve.
Many geriatric specialists would like to see all medical students trained with basic skills in caring for older adults, more support for caregivers and keeping the elderly able to live at home, and more research focused on preventing and treating disability. Of the 131 accredited, MD-granting medical schools in the United States, only 11 have departments of geriatrics, and few schools require students to take geriatric courses. However, all medical students at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine must do some of their training at the Martha Stewart Center for Living. This way, no matter what specialty of medicine they ultimately choose, every graduating student will be better prepared to work with the aging population.
Tips for Elder Care
Caring for an older adult comes with many challenges. To determine what kind of care is needed, and for how long, Dr. Chun recommends talking to the physician, nurse, social worker, or physical therapist working with the patient. When looking for caregivers or training on providing elder care yourself for a relative, try finding a reputable agency near you or asking friends and family for personal recommendations. Be sure to know the medical wishes of family members with serious illnesses. And remember -- your own medical care should not be neglected.
If you're an elder caretaker living in an area with limited access to the specific kind of medical expertise available at the MSCL, Dr. Siu recommends going online or calling national organizations such as AARP or the Alzheimer's Association for information, and finding the university or medical center with a program for aging that is closest to you.
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