In today's world, there are many different apps, devices, and technology options to help us enhance our lives. Amazon's Alexa is a smart home device that connects to your smart phone to help you through your day. As caregivers, we can use this device to our benefit. Let's say your loved one lives alone, and that causes you to worry. Or maybe your loved one lives with you, but during work hours they're alone in the home. What if something bad happens when you're not there? If you're having these thoughts, you're not alone. Caring for your loved one not only takes a toll on your work and social life, but can also take a toll on your level of stress. Here's how I used Amazon Alexa to help me with caregiving and reduce my overall stress level.
How Much Does it Cost?
There are a few different types of Alexa devices with different looks, sound quality, colors and sizes. Personally, I use the Echo Dot, which starts at $29.99. Amazon runs promotions on their devices all the time. Right now you can get two devices for $60.00, but that changes daily, so always be on the lookout for a great sale. There are more expensive options, but the Echo Dot does everything I need it to do, so opting for the pricey device didn't make sense in my situation.
What are Skills?
Once you own the device, you download the app "Amazon Alexa" on your smart phone. This app is also connected to your Amazon account. Once in the app, you can browse many different "skills" you want to enable on your device. Skills can include music stations, games, calling/text messaging features, and shopping. You can browse skills by category, or search for a specific item.
Categories of Skills:
- Newest Arrivals
- Business and Finance
- Connected Car
- Education and Reference
- Food and Drink
- Games and Trivia
- Health and Fitness
- Movies and TV
- Music and Audio
- Novelty and Humor
- Smart Home
- Travel and Transportation
What Skills Help with Caregiving?
This one will depend on your unique situation, but here are a couple of my favorites that I find useful:
Reminders: You can set alarms and reminders to go off once, daily, or on a set schedule you choose. This can help with medication reminders when Alexa says, "Mom, have you taken your morning medications?" or "Mom, remember the Grand-kids are coming over to visit this afternoon at 3pm." This is a great way to make sure your reminders are heard, and hopefully help you not make multiple calls throughout the day.
Start your day: This one is fun! You can say "Alexa, start my day" or "Alexa, Good morning!" and Alexa will automatically start the series of routines you set. For example, when I wake up in the morning and say "Alexa, start my day", Alexa immediately tells me the temperature, gives me traffic updates, gives me my calendar for the day, and starts playing my favorite morning radio show. For your aging loved one, this can be a great way to help them stay in a routine, listen to the news, give a daily snapshot of what their day looks like, and turn on their favorite news station or play music.
Control a Shared Shopping List with Option to Auto-Purchase
There are several different shopping list "skills" you can enable, but here's the basic breakdown: you can say "Alexa, add milk to my shopping list." When you go to your app, milk is automatically added to your shopping list. This is a great tool for caregivers who do the shopping for their loved ones. You can see the items added as needed, skip the visit to your loved one's house to go over household items needed, and avoid the phone call to go over the shopping list. Another great feature you can enable is auto purchasing. If you add something to your shopping list, it can be automatically purchased through Amazon. You can add the items you want for auto purchasing, choose the quantities and brands, or you may choose to not use this feature at all. Either way, a shared shopping list can save you time and effort.
Play Brain Stimulating Games
There are so many games to play! Trivia is my favorite. Let's say your loved one is trying to keep their brain sharp and enjoys playing brain stimulating games. There's an app for that. When they're ready to play, they simply ask Alexa to start the game of their choosing. There is a whole section on games and trivia in the Alexa app - so you can try different games and mix it up to keep things fresh and that mind sharp!
Make Phone Calls and Send Text Messages
This is a great function for your loved ones who might have trouble dialing the phone or sending text messages. You can simply program your phone number into the app, and all your loved one has to say is "Alexa, call Dave" or "Alexa, send Dave a message." Not only is this great for loved ones who have a hard time with phones, but it's also a great safety feature. Let's say your loved one has a fall, but is nowhere near a phone and can't get up. A simple "Alexa, call Dave" or "Alexa, call 911" is all they need to do. Keep in mind: the device will need to be in close enough range for the device to hear the voice command.
Quick tip: This is why, as mentioned earlier in the blog, that I use the Echo Dot for $29.99. I have multiple Echo Dots throughout my home, so at least one device can hear me at any time. If your loved one is living in a large home, this could be difficult, so keep that in mind.
Who Can Control the Device?
You can! The Amazon device is connected to your Amazon account. While your loved one uses the device in their home, you can control and see what's happening live on your smart phone.
Does the Alexa pair with other devices?
Yes! This functionality deserves a blog of its own, here's a few thinks to keep in mind. Amazon Alexa is always compatible with other Amazon devices. Some devices have video calling capabilities, others have security features such as a door bell with a camera, fire and carbon monoxide detectors, or a TV screen that can be voice controlled.
Find what works for you. Remember, the whole idea is to make your life easier, not more stressful. And sometimes adding new technology can have an unexpected learning curve. My advice would be to give the Echo Dot a go, and if it's just not for you, Amazon has a great return policy. However, if the device works great for you, you might want to look into other compatible devices.
I hope this helps with some of those tasks you dread, or helps give you peace of mind while away from your loved one. Remember: self-care and avoiding caregiver burnout is the most important part of being a caregiver. So give Alexa a try, you might just like it!