In January this year, the Institute of Policy Studies’ latest proposals addressing Singapore’s ageing population were revealed. The most original of all the ideas was a time-banking system, “Eldersave”, to encourage more altruistic caregiving towards the elderly. However, is a time-banking scheme the solution to improving care for the aging population? So far, the outlook doesn’t seem too bright nor shiny. Here’s 4 reasons why:
1. Time is a difficult currency to track
To put it simply, you put in hours taking care of someone, in order to earn hours for yourself to redeem similar caretaking services in future. Think karma, except it’s a point system. No further details were given on how it was supposed to work though and this ambiguity leads to several questions.
How are these hours going to be accumulated and tracked? Is it going to be on a per hour basis? A per minute basis? Do we get additional hours once we’ve completed a fixed amount of hours? Are these hours going to be tracked through a check-in/check-out system? Will there be an app to enhance convenience of check-in timings? And if checking-in and out were made so convenient, what security measures would be put in place to prevent cheating?
After all, this isn’t Carebear Uber. Neither is this a Justin Timberlake movie.
Chaining a elderly care scheme to a point system encourages the wrong ethical values
While we see the good intentions behind this idea to encourage altruistic acts of kindness, we are not sure if implementing a point/rewards system to taking care of others encourages the right kinds of moral attitudes in the long-run.
The scheme would definitely raise awareness to the value of community care. However, is it fundamentally promoting an opportunist mindset towards community work? Is this the kind of perception we want to promote in an ageing population?
How do you measure quality of “care” in Eldersave?
In most established healthcare systems, measures are put in place to monitor the quality of care patients are provided with, hence it is possible to match up cost to the quality of care. The better the care, the costlier it is. This is how different classes of wards in our local hospitals are graded and differentiated.
However, with this new time-banking system that centers around a voluntary exchange of hours, there is no sure-fire way to determine if the quality of care given is going to be equal to the one received in future. There are no measures that can guarantee a person who gave quality care to an elderly person now, will have the same quality care in future.
Likewise, there is also no way to guarantee the aging population that the care they receive is not going to be half-hearted or worse, just plain painful. Remember those cases of abuse in the old folks’ homes floating around on Singapore’s media a few years back? Will “caretaking” take place in a monitored environment with CCTV cameras? If not, how will quality be measured in the system to ensure equal returns towards time and effort invested? It is common sense to think a person taking up care-taking duties for the sole purpose of accumulating hours, would probably not hold as good an attitude towards quality of care.
No established models of time-banking schemes to follow
Although it’s reported that there are similar time-banking schemes already present in the United States and Japan, none have been actually tested on such a large nationwide scale. While we do acknowledge the possibility that further studies may help fine-tune operational mechanics for the Singaporean context, it is never a good idea to be the first ones’ trying it.
Considering the rate of adoption Singaporeans generally have towards novel ideas (trying out Snapchat is NOT considered), even if the system were effectively put in place, Singaporean’s may not be too quick to jump on that bandwagon until it has been tested on a similar scale.
Can Eldersave ever replace existing preparations for aging?
With all that’s been said before, it is also important to consider if Eldersave can actually serve as an efficient solution towards a lack of caregivers in old age. While putting in hours towards caring for the elderly does seem like a meaningful way to spend time, with such vast variety of insurance and savings plans these days to cover our medical bills and retirement funds, will our hours be better invested towards generating more money for quality care that’s assured?
If we were to consider the number of hours we would need if we were say, bedridden (but not sick enough to be admitted to a hospital), we would need a minimum of 16 care hours a day (sans 8 hrs for sleep). That’s 5,840 care hours in a year. You do the math.
What are your opinions on Eldersave? What do you think should be put in place for it to work? Let us know!