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
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.
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 any Echo speaker (anything but the Echo Connect) to interact with Alexa.
An Echo or Echo Dot works well as a medication reminder tool.
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 it 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.
Want everything and don’t want to set it up yourself? Include “With Expert Installation” on the Schlage Deadbolt.
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 include the door from the house to the garage, 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
The Echo Connect allows you to make hands-free 9-1-1 calls.
You need a landline or VoIP home phone.
And you need a compatible-Alexa device (besides the Echo Connect).
The Alexa device acts as the speaker, microphone and brains to dial the number.
Both landline and VoIP phones use the wires that lead from the street to your home. They automatically give location and callback number to the 9-1-1 system. That is why they work with 9-1-1.
Mobile phones do not give this information. They do not work with 9-1-1. Alexa-enabled devices that can make mobile connections cannot dial 9-1-1.
Alexa cannot make 9-1-1 phone calls over mobile networks.
f you want to make a 9-1-1 phone call over Alexa, you need a landline or a VoIP phone.
Once you have your Echo Connect and an Alexa speaker, you will be able to ask Alexa to call 9-1-1 with just your voice.
It will look like this:
“Alexa, call 9-1-1.”
Alexa 9-1-1 Calling Requirements
In order to use Alexa to call 9-1-1, you need:
- an Echo Connect device
- a home Wi-fi signal
- an Alexa-enabled Echo device (not the same thing as an Echo Connect. I will explain below.)
- a landline, or a VoIP home phone service
- a mobile phone, a computer tablet, or an internet connection to the website amazon.com
- an amazon.com account
The Echo Connect
The Echo Connect is not a smart home device. You cannot ask it to do tasks. It is just a bridge between your phone and your smart Alexa device.
The Wi-Fi Signal
While Echo Connect will use your home’s phone line to call 9-1-1, Alexa still needs a Wi-fi signal to operate.
The Alexa-Enabled Device
The Alexa-enabled device can be any of the Echo speaker products.
At the time of this writing, these include the Echo, the Echo Plus, the Echo Dot, the Echo Spot, and the Echo Show.
Each device has its pros and cons.
To make things simple, we will use the Echo in our example.
What is Echo, and is it the Same as Echo Connect?
Wait. “The Echo”? We said we were using the Echo Connect. What is this Echo thing, without the word “Connect”?
“The Echo” is a cylindrical Alexa-enabled speaker and microphone system. Its whole name is “Echo.” They could have called it “The Echo Speaker” or “The Echo Bob.” However, they just called it “The Echo.”
All the other Alexa Devices are the “Echo Something.” They are the “Echo Dot” or “Echo Show.” The Echo is just “The Echo.”
The Echo is an Alexa speaker and microphone device. You give it commands that start with the “wake” word “Alexa.”
“Alexa, what’s the weather.”
“Alexa, dial Mom’s home.”
The Echo is the Alexa smart device, microphone and speaker. The Echo Connect is the bridge connecting the Echo with the home phone system.
The Landline or VoIP Home Phone
The phone connection has to connect to the 9-1-1 system. Mobile phones do not connect to the system, so you cannot use them to dial 9-1-1.
Both landline and VoIP phone systems connect through an RJ11 jack. The RJ11 wires are included with the Echo Connect.
If you do not have a landline or a VoIP phone, you can get an Ooma system for about a $100 one-time fee. I will show you how, below.
The Mobile Phone, Computer Tablet, or alexa.amazon.com Interface
You can set up the Echo Connect using either an Amazon Alexa app on a mobile phone or computer tablet.
If you do not have a mobile or tablet, you can use a regular computer to browse to alexa.amazon.com. This will act as your “Alexa App” instead.
The Amazon.com Account
The Amazon.com coordinates your Alexa devices and services with your data.
Alexa Hands-Free Call to 9-1-1 Setup Example
This setup assumes the following. You have:
- a Wi-fi signal
- a landline or VoIP home telephone
- a mobile phone, or a computer connection to alexa.amazon.com
- an Amazon.com account. You do not have one? Go to amazon.com, and click “Start Here” on the top right to create one. When it asks for your phone, use the home phone number you will be using to connect to Alexa.
On Amazon, get the following devices:
Connect the devices as follows:
- Plug the Echo and the Echo Connect into power outlets.
- Download the Alexa app onto your phone, or use a computer to browse to alexa.amazon.com.
- Use the RJ11 wire to connect the Echo Connect to the telephone system (landline) or the Wi-fi router (VoIP).
- Use the app or web interface to add the Echo and Echo Connect devices to your Amazon account.
What if You Do Not Have a Landline or VoIP Line?
For about a hundred dollars, you can get the Ooma VoIP telephone for your home. It uses your internet connection to make phone calls. Emergency 9-1-1 systems recognize its location and callback number, so it is perfect for your hands-free Alexa emergency phone system.
Get the Ooma Telo Air 2 phone system. Plug it into your Wi-fi router. Plug the Echo Connect into the Wi-Fi Router. Proceed with step 2 above!
What if Your Voice Will Not Reach Alexa from the Whole House?
Add one or more 3rd Generation Echo Dot devices to the other rooms. The 3rd Gen. Echo Dot is very similar to the Echo.
Besides the size and price difference, the Echo Dot’s speaker is slightly less powerful than the Echo’s speaker. If you want room-filling sound from each device, then get Echo devices rather than Echo Dot devices.
Whether your 2nd through N devices are Echo or Echo Dot devices, the first device should be an Echo. After that first Echo, the subsequent devices can be either.