How Alexa Can Help Care For Aging Or Disabled Family Members

Post Updated 10/26/18 – An LME reader has emailed to fill me in on the ingenious ways he’s using a second Echo to help him monitor and care for his mother, and has given me permission to share his tips with the LME audience.

 

Elder Care
Image credit: Orange County Elder Care

 

There are some terrific ideas here that can easily be adapted to help with elder or disabled care of a family member who lives nearby, but not under the same roof.

 

First, Add Your Family Member To Your Amazon Household
You need to add the family member to your Amazon Household so that you can register an Echo for that person to your own account. You’ll see why in the next section.

An Amazon Household can include up to two adults and four children. The relevant help pages are non-specific with regard to whether or not the added adult must actually live in the same home as the primary account holder, so I called Amazon customer support and was told it’s fine to add a family member who does not reside at the same address as the primary account holder.

Click here to view Amazon’s Help page about Amazon Households.

 

Now Alexa Can Help You Monitor & Care For Your Loved One!
Here’s the text of the email I received, which outlines the creative ways this LME reader has found to add Alexa to his family’s caregiving team.


My Mom is getting up in age and her eyesight is poor but she is able to live by herself just across town. She enjoys books but cannot read them so I suggested she try Audible and use the Echo to listen and control playback. With her Echo on the same Amazon account as mine (this is important later) it worked great – she would call me and ask for a book and I would go on my Amazon/Audible account to purchase and the book would be available immediately for her listening pleasure. She uses these Echo commands for playback of Audible books.

When I visit my Mom she usually has a short list of grocery items for me to get and bring to her next time I visit. With Alexa and IFTTT, she now says ‘Add bread to my shopping list’ and I get a text message that says the same thing so I can get the items to her that day. She can answer the phone but has trouble dialing so instead she says ‘Alexa trigger Bob Call me’ and I get a text message to call her.

 

 

LME Editor’s Note: remember that two Echos registered to a single Amazon account also share the same shopping and to-do lists, so you don’t have to employ IFTTT to use this tip: your loved one can add things to the shopping list with spoken commands and you can get in the habit of checking the shopping list in the Alexa mobile app each day on the way home from work or at the supermarket to see what you need to pick up.

My Mom wants her independence but I worry about her living by herself. One day while looking at the Alexa app I stumbled on the History feature. I noticed ‘Moms Echo’ and that my mom had asked for the weather at 6:30am that morning so I knew she was up and going that day. I also could see she asked Alexa the time 4 or 5 times during the night which means she might be having trouble sleeping. Daily – she asks Alexa for jokes, to play soft music, wake her up, sports scores, etc. all in her history for me to see and check on her to know her mood and well-being. The last time my mom traveled out of town to see my sisters, she packed up Alexa and took her too!

LME Editor’s Note: Here’s where Alexa is passively helping this son keep tabs on how Mom is doing throughout her day, without Mom having to take any extra steps or having any kind of intrusive or potentially humiliating system of check-ins.

 

 

Here is my favorite part. I have SmartThings and Philips Hue lights that I can control via my Echo. I realized by accident that because my Mom’s echo is on my Amazon account, she is able to control my lights and devices too! With my Mom being an early riser, my kids have asked her to turn on our kitchen lights in the morning. When my Mom wakes up she says ‘Alexa, turn on the kitchen lights’ and my kitchen lights come on. When our family wakes up a little while later, we see the lights on and I know my Mom is OK and my kids know their Grandma is thinking about them. 🙂

LME Editor’s Note: You could also institute a system where your loved one changes your smart lights’ color to red in the event of an emergency where immediate assistance is needed, such as when there’s been a fall far from the phone but still within Alexa’s hearing range.


These are some very useful, practical and easy ways an Echo can become a valued and even fun part of your family’s caregiving routine.