We use her to set alarms, play music, adjust the temperature, and turn on our favorite movies. We’re talking, of course, about Alexa, Amazon’s virtual assistant. A staple in homes across the country, most people who have one don’t go a day without relying on it. This brings up the question of how it could work for someone who is caring for an elderly loved one – particularly if that senior has memory challenges.
How can Alexa help caregivers of Alzheimer’s patients? The device can:
- Set reminders
- Make lists
- Keep a calendar
- Answer basic questions
- Provide entertainment like jokes, music, or movies
- Offer traffic, news, and weather updates
In this article, you’ll find out how one little device can make such a big difference in the life of those with Alzheimer’s as well as their caretakers.
Can Alexa Help With Dementia?
Whether you’re an adult child who’s caring for a parent with dementia or you’re a paid caretaker, watching a senior’s mind degrade is utterly heartbreaking. And, at some point, you will likely need to help the elderly person around the clock to ensure they’re safe and healthy.
One aide you can rely on is Alexa. Here are some of the ways her soothing voice can improve the lives of seniors with dementia:
Although your senior may not remember things so well anymore, their life isn’t on hold yet. They still have things they’d like to achieve from day to day. They may wake up with a whole list of tasks to accomplish, but as the day goes on, they end up completely forgetting what was on their list.
With Alexa, a senior with dementia can verbally create a list and add to it at any time. If they happen to forget what they’re doing in the middle of the task, Alexa can remind them.
We all wake up sometimes not knowing what day it is, but we usually quickly remember. For elderly dementia patients, sometimes that remembering never happens. Rather than flounder around in confusion, the senior can ask Alexa what day it is and be reminded almost instantly. That can bring them a sense of comfort and make them feel more grounded.
Besides not knowing the current date, an Alzheimer’s patient may have countless other questions as a day goes on. For example, who is the current United States president? What year is it? What’s going on with the world?
When you, the caretaker, activate Alexa’s question mode, she can answer all these questions in succession. No matter how curious your senior is about almost any topic, Alexa should be able to provide an answer.
This information can provide great solace to your senior. Alexa could sometimes even jog the senior’s memory with some of the facts she shares.
Alexa is around to entertain a senior anytime. They can ask Alexa to tell them a joke, play them music, read audiobooks, or provide television and movie options if the senior has a smart television.
News, Weather, and Traffic Updates
Your senior may have a hard time reading newspapers or online news, so Alexa can update them on the latest news throughout the day, including breaking headlines. She’s also a great weatherperson. Plus, if you are planning to take your senior out, you can check the latest traffic updates via Alexa before you leave.
Can Alexa Do Daily Reminders?
Doctor’s appointments, grocery trips, even lunch with a friend. It can be a chore to remember all the appointments and events that your loved one needs to attend. Plus, when the day comes to actually go, you may get busy and forget all about what was on the schedule.
Could you set up Alexa to remind you or your senior of what’s going on in their life? Absolutely!
You just input the reminder into Alexa’s memory with the Alexa app or verbally tell her to set a reminder by saying, “Alexa, create a new reminder.” When she responds, tell her whatever it is you want to be reminded of – such as meeting a friend, going to the doctor’s, or even something simple like taking the chicken out of the freezer for dinner later. Give her the date and time for the reminder, like tomorrow at 2 p.m. or June 10th at noon. If you don’t give her all the info up front, Alexa will coach you through setting up the reminder by asking for the information she needs.
Then, when the time comes, Alexa will announce, “here’s your reminder,” and proceed to tell you what you wanted to remember. I use this feature all the time!
If you’d prefer to set the reminders in the Alexa app just open the app, click the Reminders & Alarms section, and add in as many reminders as you want. You can even choose if the event is repeated and which device the reminder will be announced from.
Can Alexa Remind You To Take Medication?
What if your senior with Alzheimer’s or dementia is especially bad about remembering to take their medication? Maybe you’ve done everything you can think of, such as buy them pill containers or leaving the pills in plain sight, yet your loved one’s track record is hit or miss.
Alexa can help the senior stay on their medication regimen daily, even if they take more than one medication. The reminders feature is not limited to any one specific type of event. It’s as handy for those activities your senior does outside of the house as it is for those within the confines of home.
Using the same methods we highlighted in the prior section, you can set recurring reminders for your senior to take their medication. Whether you want these reminders to chime out every single day, several times a day, or just once every other day, you get to choose the reminder frequency so it’s just right for your loved one.
Can Alexa Call 911 If Needed?
I know you hate to think about it, but you really should have a contingency plan for if the worst happens. What if a fire breaks out in your senior’s home or they slip and fall? They need to be able to call 911 immediately, but it’s not like they carry a smartphone around constantly.
That has you thinking, what about Alexa? She’s so useful for everything else, so could she call 911, too?
While it would be great if that could happen, as of this writing, Alexa cannot call 911 on her own. You have a few options for emergencies, though (more or less).
Any non-emergency numbers are fair game for Alexa to dial. Your senior can request this in one of two ways, either by reciting the full phone number or asking Alexa to call a contact by stating their name.
The latter option is likely the better one for seniors battling the early stages of dementia or Alzheimer’s, as they may not be able to remember a full phone number. If your senior wanted to contact you and your name is Bob, they’d simply say, “Alexa, call Bob” to be connected to you.
Ask My Buddy
A similar option is called the Ask My Buddy skill. Although this feature is not produced by Amazon, it does work with Alexa. Made for seniors and others who need help, Ask My Buddy is a personal alert network.
Once you make your Ask My Buddy account and sync your senior’s contacts to the service, you link Ask My Buddy to Alexa. Then, anytime your senior needs the service, all they have to do is say “Alexa, open Ask My Buddy.”
The senior can then say commands like “Alexa, ask my buddy to contact Bob” or even “Alexa, ask my buddy to send help,” which can put the senior in touch with police. It’s an extra step compared to dialing 911, but it’s better than nothing.
Remember how we said Alexa won’t call 911 on her own? This is what we meant. The Echo Connect product, which has since been discontinued, can be used in conjunction with Alexa to dial 911. If you or your senior don’t already have an Echo Connect and you’re interested in buying one, you can shop around online for an aftermarket product.
Once you get the Echo Connect, make sure it’s connected to the senior’s phone jack or modem. A splitter adapter for the phone jack will let them use both the Echo Connect and their home landline.
When you access the Alexa app and go into Settings, you can add the Echo Connect by choosing Add Device. After setting up, Echo Connect can call any number your senior requests.
Is Echo Show Good For Seniors?
What about the Echo Show? This second-generation smart speaker has Bluetooth and Wi-Fi connectivity, and it’s wireless too. Of course, Echo Show uses Alexa.
The original Echo Show was a tall, cylindrical device, whereas the new one looks more like a tablet. It has a screen, which was missing from the first edition of the Echo Show. This gives the senior the capacity to do both video and audio calls easily with their device.
Alexa’s AI has been improved as well. She can get in touch with the senior’s friends, family, and medical professionals through the contacts you feed her. If you don’t want her to access specific contacts for any reason, Alexa won’t.
All the same features we’ve discussed throughout this article – such as setting reminders, making lists, telling jokes, reading off the weather and news, and turning on music – are still standard with the Echo Show.
You can even use the Echo Show to call 911, although some users have said the only way to do that is by adding 911 to your senior’s contact list. Then your senior would ask Alexa to call the same way they would anyone else on their list.
Having a senior parent with memory issues means your day-to-day life is full of responsibilities. One little tool you might never have thought to use is Alexa. She can keep your senior informed, reminded, and entertained, not to mention that she can connect them with friends, family, and emergency services (in some instances).
If you’re not already using Alexa for your senior with Alzheimer’s or dementia, we hope this article convinces you to start!