How would Timebanking help our patients?
It’s really easy to generalise about people and like others, I have been guilty of doing this about our patients.
When I talk about this idea of initiating collaboration between St John Ambulance and Timebanking, in order to help people understand my vision, I quite often say that we have ‘lots of’ patients who call us because they are lonely. This is something that people can understand and there is a bit of a stereotype about ambulance crews going round just to make cups of tea for people! While it does happen, there are all sorts of reasons why Timebanking could be of benefit to our patients, and many, many patients that I am thinking of when I am spouting off about this plan.
People who are recovering from illness or injury could benefit from Timebanking, even those with lots of friends and family support. Sometimes it is the friends and family who may need the Timebanking support! When you suddenly have to look after someone who can no longer do things for themselves, even short-term, the pressure can be palpable. Being able to call on someone in your community to cook a meal, or take the kids to rugby practice or whatever can be an immense relief.
Having suffered with depression for many years myself, I know that isolation can be both an ease and an aggravation to the illness. But getting out and doing stuff, particularly helping others is pretty much always a balm. When mental illness is really bad, it can be hard to hold down a ‘proper’ job, but if you end up on a sickness benefit, sometimes the way out becomes more and more difficult when there is less that you have to do. It can be a very vicious cycle. Timebanking allows people suffering from mental illness to build up their contributions to others at a rate that fuels their recovery without burning out. It feeds the soul by building confidence, connections and a sense of belonging and being needed. Stretching out into the community widens the experience of both of the trading parties, and can lead to new support and friendships.
Our elderly people often feel more secure when they know more people in their community. Of the people who ‘call the ambulance because they are lonely’ I think elderly women would be most likely to fall into that category. My mum and grandmother grew up in a time when women had really only one choice – motherhood and homekeeping. They have lived through vast societal changes and now these generations of women can find themselves widowed and with their children and grandchildren spread all over the world. Who wouldn’t feel lonely?! But if their enormous array of skills and experience was tapped into by the community, their sense of purpo
se and usefulness would return, as would important endangered arts like knitting and mending and preserving.
Timebanking offers a cost-effective method to implement ‘buddy’ schemes for people living with chronic illness. Self-management of chronic illness can be difficult even with the right education. Support from a fellow sufferer can make all the difference and good self-management has been shown to reduce ambulance call-outs and hospital admissions.
People whose calls to the ambulance are frequent and inappropriate are usually those who suffer most from social isolation. Management plans can be enacted by GPs and ambulance, but it doesn’t really get to the core of the problem. Timebanking does. It acknowledges that all people have skills and can be assets to their community. Providing the conduit to be that asset pulls people into their communities. I remember placing my stethoscope on a woman’s back to listen to her lungs and thinking… ‘I bet this is the only human touch she has had since the last ambulance came…’ People need people. With Timebanking we can start to crochet our communities back together.
This is to give you an idea of the scope of Timebanking in enhancing health and well-being in our communities. It’s just a snippet, because the scope is enormous and when other people’s imaginations are added into the mix it just gets bigger. There isn’t a day that goes by when I am on-road that I don’t encounter someone who I think… ‘now there’s a likely Timebanking candidate…’ What I hope to see in the not-too-distant future, is me passing that on to the next Health Care Provider or the patient’s GP who will start the conversation with the patient; no one will have not heard of Timebanking; and we will turn the corner from our Sickcare system into Health & Care Street!