Taking care of Mom or Dad is by far the hardest and most important job we have. But it’s hard, time-consuming, and stressful. The Alexa smart home device is an amazing tool that can ease the burdens of caring for the elderly. Here are four outstanding ways to use Alexa.
Use Alexa as:
- an instant video check-in tool
- a medication reminder
- a home security tool
a hands-free way to call 9-1-1(update 12/10/20 this is no longer possible using this hardware)
Instantly Look in on Mom or Dad from Anywhere
I was 400 miles away from my mother, but I always wanted to know if she was OK. I called her every day. She answered every day. Until the day she did not answer.
Have you ever called your Mom, when you knew she was home, but she did not pick up the phone? After the second time she did not pick up, I started looking up her neighbors. I only knew some of my mom’s friends by their first names! If I had to do this all over again, I would have copied her neighbors’ numbers into my phone.
I called three neighbors before I found one who was at home. This was a good friend of my mom’s, so she had a key. She went over to find my mother practically in a coma with low blood sugar. I was 400 miles away. The “Echo Show” did not yet exist If it had, I would have been able to see mom right away using the “drop in” video feature.
Use Echo Show to Have an Instant Video Chat with Mom
If I had to do it over again, there would be three Echo Show devices in my mom’s house. These would allow me to “drop in” on Mom with just a command: “Alexa, drop in on Mom’s living room.” Alexa would then show me Mom on the couch, in her diabetic sleep. I would instantly know there was something wrong, because I would be able to view and listen to her surroundings.
Let Mom Control Her Privacy
I think of the Drop In feature on the Echo Show as being like an Independent Living Facility that allows you to move into Assisted Living when you need it. Start out with the less invasive features, but be prepared for more help should you need it. Without “Drop In” permissions, you can still have video chats with your mother. The difference is she has to accept the call before the camera displays her on your Echo Show screen.
“Drop In” is just like a phone call, except the phone just answers for your mother. If you set it up now as a video calling system, you will have the Drop In feature available to you should you need it down the road. She can also allow and disallow it with a command. To turn it off, she says “Alexa, disable drop-in.” To turn it back on, she says “Alexa, enable drop-in.” In the meantime, leave “Drop In” disabled. You can still have regular video chats over the Echo Show devices!
Echo Show Video Drop-in Requirements
The most straightforward way to setup Echo Show Drop In requires these pieces:
Your Mom has:
- at least one Echo Show
- a Wireless network
- a mobile phone
- At a minimum, you have a mobile phone
- For easiest setup, you will also have a wireless connection and an Echo Show. However, you CAN do this on just your mobile.
How Many Echo Show Devices for Your Mom?
Me: “Doctor, do I need to floss all of my teeth?”
Dentist: “No. Only the ones you want to keep.”
That is how may cameras you need.
How will it help to have an Echo Show in the bedroom if mom needs help in the kitchen? For complete coverage of your Mom’s living space, you need one Echo Show per area. I say “area” and not “room” because it is going to depend on what the camera can see. These cameras cannot see around corners. They are good at picking up voices from across a wide area, so it is OK to view an open area with one device.
You can get an Echo Show for your side of the conversation, but it is not required. You can also communicate to your Mom’s Echo Show devices over your cell phone. If your mother does not have a mobile phone, you can add a Google Phone to your cell phone, then assign Mom’s Echo Show devices to that second number.
Dropping in on Mom’s Coma
If I had an Echo Show setup when my mother went into a diabetic coma, this is how it might have looked:
Me: “Alexa, DROP IN on MOM’s Kitchen.” …. Nothing happening.
Me: “Alexa, DROP IN on Mom’s Living Room.” … There is mom on the couch.
Me: “Mom. Mom! Can you hear me?” Now I would see that she is not responding.
Use Alexa as a Medication Reminder Tool
Alexa is an excellent medication reminder. It understands date and time commands. You can tell Alexa to remind you to take your medication once, every day, or several times per day.
One Time Medication Reminder
If you just need a simple reminder to take one medication, you can say
“Alexa, remind me to take 2 Metoprolol at 8 a.m.”
Four Times per Day, Every Day Medication Reminder
You can use an Echo Show video device, or and Echo Plus orEcho Dot speaker to interact with Alexa. You will need the Alexa Echo device, a home Wi-fi connection, and either a mobile phone or a computer internet connection to alexa.amazon.com. After you plugin in the Echo, download the Alexa app to your smart phone (or go to alexa.amazon.com). Add the Echo to your Amazon account. Then start giving Alexa your commands.
Let say you need to take meds in the morning, afternoon, evening, and at bedtime. Sort your pills into a weekly pill organizer with four slots for each day. Then set four reminders on Alexa.
“Alexa, remind me to take my morning pills every day at 8:00 am.”
“Alexa, remind me to take my afternoon pills every day at 1:00 pm.”
“Alexa, remind me to take my evening pills every day at 6:00 pm.”
“Alexa, remind me to take my bedtime pills every day at 10:00 pm.”
Use Alexa to Secure the House without Getting Up
Remember that time you were lying in bed and realized the front door was unlocked? Your arthritic knee hurt and the air was cold? You did not want to get up, go downstairs, lock the door, and go back up the stairs. If we do not want to get up to lock the door, imagine how Mom or Dad feels about it. As hard as it is for us to use the stairs, it is harder for them. Wouldn’t it be nice to say:
“Alexa, lock the front door.”
Wait. It gets better. What if you could say this:
“Alex, lock the front door at mom’s house”?
You no longer have to choose between taking your aching body downstairs, and leaving the door unlocked. You do have to replace your locks with smart locks, but once the locks are replaced and set up, the peace of mind and convenience are amazing.
- Wireless locks are keyless. There is nothing to carry or to lose! You enter a code to lock and unlock.
- If you get a smart lock with a camera, you can check who is at the door from your mobile phone or Echo Show.
- If you get a camera with audio and night vision, you can see, talk to, and listen to visitors, even at night. Night vision cameras work even when lights are off!
- Wireless locks allow you to create multiple access codes. Create a one-time code for a dog-walker, or permanent code for each member of the family. Then you know who unlocked the door, and when.
To make this work, you do not need to buy the locks or repair person service on Amazon. Alexa-compatible smart locks are available at all the home stores. Anyone who can replace a dumb lock should be able to replace a smart one, too. The skills are the same. The difference in hardware is that smart locks run on batteries. Either they have an internal wireless device, or they have a bridge to connect to the home’s wireless signal.
August, Schlage, Yale, Kiwkset and Array all make excellent smart locks. Personally, I would add a smart lock to the door from the house to the garage as well, since external garage doors are a weak spot in home security. Be aware that glass patio doors often come with easily breakable locks, so this is an opportunity to shore up backdoor defenses.
Have Alexa Call 9-1-1 with Just a Voice Command
Update December, 2020: unfortunately the hardware required for this setup is no longer available.