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Alexa for Seniors and Caregivers: Using Alexa for Elderly Loved Ones

By Noah BandtFebruary 24, 2022
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Amazon for seniors — it might not be a phrase you think or say often. But, for many caregivers, one of the most challenging aspects of caring for a senior is leaving them alone. The worries can seem endless. Are they safe? Did they take their medication? Are the doors locked? Fortunately, more and more caregivers can turn to virtual personal assistants, such as Amazon’s Alexa, for help.

Alexa offers a variety of features and is compatible with several Amazon devices, as well as other devices like the Ring Doorbell or smart lightbulbs. Read on to learn what Alexa can do for your elderly loved ones and how to incorporate this technology into their homes.

Alexa Together for seniors

One of the most important parts of a caregiver’s job is monitoring the physical health and well-being of an older person. Diet, exercise, and medication all play a vital part in making sure they’re happy and healthy. According to the Centers for Disease Control, 40% of emergency visits that require patients to be hospitalized are caused by just a few medicines that require special monitoring.

Caregivers can help keep seniors safe by setting personalized medication reminders for seniors through services such as Alexa Together, a service that connects caregivers and seniors through their Amazon devices. Whether the caregiver wants to ensure their loved one receives medication reminders or they want to be alerted in the event of a fall, Alexa Together can provide caregivers with a clear view of a senior’s safety and well-being.

Another advantage is that Alexa Together is a senior-centric tool first.

“Alexa Together was designed to help aging family members feel more comfortable and confident living independently, and to give their family peace of mind,” says Nicolas Maynard, senior manager of Alexa for Everyone.

Here are some specific features of Alexa Together.

Customized alerts

Caregivers can customize alerts to address a variety of concerns, such as when their loved one has or hasn’t completed tasks or when their loved one interacts with their devices. For instance, Maynard says that a contact sensor linked to Alexa Together can be placed on a door or medicine cabinet, notifying the caregiver of the potential for wandering or reassuring the caregiver that medications have been taken.

A caregiver is alerted that her father started his day.

Alexa Emergency Helpline

This 24/7 urgent care line allows seniors to request emergency services through trained agents. Seniors can connect to an operator using the command, “Alexa, call for help,” and caregivers will automatically receive a notification that the Emergency Helpline has been contacted. This service can be useful for helping seniors who regularly make unnecessary 911 calls.

These calls are typically made by seniors who live alone or by people who are mentally ill, according to Rana Simpson, a consultant for the Center for Problem Oriented Policing. Some of these callers believe that an emergency is occurring, while others are simply lonely and seeking company. These calls can be a burden to public services and can be potentially dangerous for first responders. Every high-priority call signals responders to move fast, and they’re at higher risk for injuries on these calls as they may have to move quickly up or down stairs, force through doors, etc.

It’s important to note that, while an asset in emergencies, the Alexa Emergency Helpline is not a 911 service and does not call 911 directly.

Fall detection

Alexa Together’s fall detection feature can provide caregivers with peace of mind knowing that their loved one is being monitored. The consequences of an undetected fall can be serious. According to the Center for Disease Control, falls are the leading cause of fatal and nonfatal injuries in seniors 65 and older. Whether you choose the Vayvar Care wall-mounted sensor, which detects falls via sound, or this fall detection pendant by ATS, connecting these devices to an Amazon device that uses Alexa Together can allow caregivers to act quickly in the event of a fall.

Remote Assist

With the remote assist function, caregivers can set reminders, add contacts, manage grocery lists directly, and adjust the settings of an Echo device. Whether your loved one needs a notification to take their medications or a reminder to set up a doctor’s appointment, remote assist allows caregivers to lend a helping hand from afar.

Activity feed

The activity feed condenses all of the features into the Alexa app where caregivers can manage their alerts or access features like Drop In and Remote Assist. If enabled, the Drop In function allows caregivers and seniors to connect through audio or video calling at the touch of a button.

Need help getting started? Check out this handy Alexa Together setup guide.

A phone shows the activity feed for Alexa Together.

Devices for using Alexa

If the Alexa Together subscription service doesn’t feel right for you and your loved one, you can still take advantage of the benefits of Alexa through Amazon’s smart devices.

Amazon Echo devices for seniors

Amazon has a number of other products that feature Alexa. One of the most popular lines is Echo, a series of hands-free speakers and devices that can be controlled with your voice.

Consider the following models.

  • Echo Dot. With the Echo Dot, seniors can easily and affordably integrate Alexa into their homes. This is the smallest Alexa-compatible smart speaker that Amazon offers.
  • Echo Show 15. Resembling a picture frame, this is Amazon’s largest smart display. The device features an HD touch-screen display with facial and voice recognition software that can store helpful information from multiple users.
  • Echo Show 10. This device features a smaller HD touch-screen display with a motorized base that allows it to track your movement around the room.
  • Echo Studio. Offering immersive audio quality, this high-fidelity smart speaker offers 3D sound that can adapt to fit any room.

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Other Alexa-compatible devices

You can further expand Alexa’s functionality by pairing your Amazon Echo with other smart home devices. Here are some other devices seniors can integrate into their homes.

  • Ring Video Doorbell. When connected to Alexa, this HD-video doorbell system allows you to see, hear, and speak to anyone outside the door, directly from your phone, tablet, or computer. Ring also offers devices that can remotely turn on lights and lock doors. If a caregiver wants to share access to a Ring device, they can become a Shared User by asking the device owner to text or email them an invitation.
  • Alexa Smart Home. The devices under this umbrella include lighting, security cameras, and thermostats that can be operated using an Alexa device. These devices are also compatible with Alexa Guard, Amazon’s home security service.
  • Amazon Fire Smart TV. This Alexa-compatible smart TV offers HD-quality video and comes with the Fire TV Stick, which can find your favorite apps, movies, and shows.

Setting up Alexa for elderly loved ones

However you decide to integrate Alexa into your or your loved one’s home, it’s essential to set up the device correctly and ensure that seniors can use all of its functions. For home setup, follow these easy steps:

1. Purchase a device on Amazon.com and select “gift” at checkout so that the device doesn’t sync automatically with your Amazon account.

2. Log in to your Amazon account and activate the Alexa-compatible device.

3. Find a spot where you know a senior can easily interact with the device — many people choose the nightstand or the living room. “For a better experience, placing a variety of devices, like an Echo Show, Echo, or Echo Dot, in rooms throughout the loved one’s home can help them more easily access Alexa as they go about their day,” Maynard says.

4. Position the device in the center of the room, away from any TVs, windows, or potential hazards such as the kitchen sink.

5. Make sure the device is at least 6 inches from the wall, with clearance on the top and sides.

6. Customize the Alexa settings as desired. You can tell Alexa what to call you, or change the command that activates the device to make it easier to remember.

Alexa for seniors with dementia

Virtual assistants like Alexa can be a useful tool for seniors with Alzheimer’s disease or other types of dementia. For example, Alexa can assist seniors with music therapy by providing an easy way to play music. Seniors simply need to ask Alexa to play the song they want to hear. Alexa can also be used to help seniors cope with two of the earliest symptoms of dementia by helping keep track of appointments or by looking up words they can’t remember.

In times when caregivers can’t intervene, Alexa and Alexa Together can provide much-needed peace of mind.

Sources:

Amazon staff. (2021, December 7). Alexa Together launches to help customers remotely care for loved onesUS About Amazon.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2017, October 11). Adverse drug events in adults. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Dahmen, J., Cook, D.J., Wang, X., & Honglei, W. (2017, August). Smart secure homes: a survey of smart home technologies that sense, assess, and respond to security threatsJournal of reliable intelligent environments.

Sampson, R. (2002). Misuse and abuse of 911. ASU Center for Problem-Oriented Policing.

Author
Noah Bandt

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