How To Setup Alexa ( Amazon Echo Devices ) For Seniors With Dementia And Improve Home Safety

How To Setup Alexa ( Amazon Echo Devices ) For Seniors With Dementia And Improve Home Safety

First off, what is an Amazon Echo? This is a fairly new technology that compiles all sorts of digital items into one location, which is an Echo speaker and surround system about the size of a hockey puck (this referring to the Echo Dot series).

Several models have come out over the years, but the idea is the same.

The user sets up their Echo device, and after hooking the system up to an Amazon account, Alexa is born. Alexa is the digital voice used by Echo devices, which is similar to “Siri”.

The user asks Alexa for digital requests and Alexa will respond by either providing the requested item or by asking for more clarification. An example includes, user: “Alexa, play music from my library”, Alexa: “Shuffling songs from your Amazon music library” (first song begins).

When we think about home safety in regards to aging adults, our minds automatically focus on falls within the home.

However, home safety encompasses so many more areas that often go unnoticed until a senior is left at home alone and something unexpected occurs.

Let’s review some areas of home safety for seniors and how Amazon Echo devices may be able to assist:

  • Falls (injurious and non-injurious):

    Seniors falling in the home is very serious business because it can result in injury, malnutrition (if left stranded on the floor for several hours), and death.

    Some seniors are accustomed to using alert systems to call for help, but did you know that Amazon echo devices can do the same?

If a fall does occur, Echo devices can detect falls, call loved ones, and call 911 with the proper set-up. Through the Alexa app, there is a feature called “Drop-in” which seems creepy at first but very handy in the event of an accident.

A loved one can ask Alexa to call another Echo device in a senior’s home without requiring the senior to pick it up or accept the call. That way, loved ones can check in on someone who hasn’t contacted them in a while or is unable to answer back due to an injurious fall.

Users can also set up what is called an Amazon Echo Connect, which is a specific system that calls 911.

The majority of Echo devices do NOT call 911 directly. These models fell out of popularity, but are useful for seniors who need quick access to emergency services.

Other apps that users can download include “Ask My Buddy” and “My SOS Family” which stores contact information for people seniors would like to reach out to if they need help.

  • Medication management and mishaps:

    Two years ago, Amazon paired up with a company called Omnicell and created an app that would allow seniors to have medication reminders and request prescription refills.

    Users download an app called Giant Eagle Pharmacy skill. Alexa uses voice recognition and passcodes to protect pharmacy information so that only the user can access the refill requests and medication schedule.

  • Home security:

    Through Alexa, users can tap into an app called “Guard” which detects trouble by listening to certain sounds that you enable in the app settings.

    Examples include listening to the sound of broken glass as well as other turbulent noises. Alerts are sent directly to the phone that’s hooked up to Alexa so that users can immediately contact emergency services if needed.

    There are also features that readily attach to an Alexa-compatible security system, including setting off sirens and other blaring sounds to scare off intruders.

  • Temperature settings:

    This is helpful for seniors who aren’t as mobile as they used to be and can’t access their thermostat regularly.

    Amazon Echo devices can be hooked up to Alexa compatible thermostat systems, so that all users have to do is ask Alexa to adjust their thermostat settings.

  • Fire emergencies:

    Using the “Guard” app that was previously mentioned, seniors can set up their Echo device to detect sounds that could indicate a fire.

    For example, users can enable the app to listen to the sound of a smoke detector. Alexa will then alert the user by sending a message to their phone (which needs to be set up with the Echo device already).

  • Basic CPR:

    In the event that a senior has fallen or has a medical episode that results in a situation where they are not breathing, caregivers and family members can actually ask Alexa for instructions for CPR.

    Alexa will also provide a pulse noise in order to help the person space out chest compressions correctly. This feature is helpful for users who are not well-versed in CPR or who have previous training but are a little rusty.

    It is essential to note that this should not be considered a complete replacement for professional emergency service workers, but it’s better than doing nothing while waiting for paramedics to arrive.

  • Natural disaster warning:

    The AccuWeather skill can send users notifications about incoming severe weather. However, the user needs to go into settings and allow Alexa to send notifications.

    Warnings of inclement weather will be voiced by Alexa and the device will send off a pulsating yellow light.

Amazon Echo devices have some use when it comes to home safety for seniors. It’s important to mention that the majority of these features that were discussed will only work if the user is within close enough range for the Echo device to pick up his/her voice.

Seniors should keep their mobile device with them at all times, especially if they are accustomed to falls or medical episodes, since it’s not a perfect world and emergencies won’t always occur within feet of an Echo device.

It should be noted that Amazon Echo devices are not designed to replace real people. Life is still very unpredictable, and digital devices can only perform so much when it comes to assisting with human needs.

Home safety can be enhanced with the use of Echo devices. However, if a senior requires personal assistance in order to safely live at home, then caregivers/family members still need to have a consistent presence in their life.

Author: Samuel

Samuel is a physical therapist with over 20 years medical experience. He has extensive knowledge in functional rehabilitation in the acute care hospital and in-home care settings. He has spent most of his career helping seniors transition from hospital or rehab care to living independently at home. In his free time he likes to travel and read autobiographies.

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