Martha Stewart Takes on Health Care
The domestic doyenne dishes about the opening of her visionary medical center for seniors, her own health challenges, and the lessons learned while coping with the loss of her mom.
Senior Care in America continued...
Stewart learned about this issue firsthand while helping care for her
mother. "My mom went to four, five, six different doctors, and she wasn't
always totally open about what medications she was taking, or not taking," she
The more medications a senior takes, and the more doctors prescribing them,
the greater the opportunity for error -- for example, prescribing medications
that have dangerous interactions. More than half of fatal hospital medication
errors involved seniors, according to a 2004 report in U.S. Pharmacist.
"That's the value of a senior center with excellent geriatricians who look
at a person's health in a comprehensive way, rather than having them diagnose
and prescribe independently," says Steel.
Ultimately, Stewart hopes the new center at Mount Sinai will serve as a
model for similar geriatric centers across the country. She's working with
Brent Ridge, MD, her company's vice president for healthy living -- they first
met when Ridge, then a Mount Sinai geriatrician, approached her with the idea
for the center -- to make that happen. "We want to show other hospitals
across the country how they can go about creating the same kind of excellent
program, where the aging population can be taken care of well," she
"Being healthy is all about being prepared," agrees Ridge. "Our
health care system is not prepared, and the vast majority of individuals are
not prepared. Having someone with Martha's clout and her ability to speak will
raise awareness of this issue. Just like they look to Martha for planning other
aspects of their lives, we think they'll look to her for this aspect as
Steel, for one, hopes Stewart can bring these issues to the forefront --
because he sees a tidal wave coming. By 2050, according to the U.S. Census
Bureau, nearly 87 million people in the United States will be older than 65 --
more than 20% of the projected population. "I can tell you that American
geriatric medicine has gargantuan problems," Steel says. "There's too
much expensive hospital care, and there needs to be more care at home. But
unless we have places like Stewart's center that can make good outpatient care
for seniors possible -- and good geriatricians to provide it -- there will be a
serious crisis in geriatric care."