Best of 2016 #3: Amazon Echo for Dementia: Technology for Seniors

amazon echo for dementia

New technology helps seniors with dementia

The Amazon Echo is a voice-activated technology innovation that has amazing potential for helping seniors with dementia. It’s similar to Siri on the iPhone, except that it understands better and is more useful.

At first glance, the Echo (also referred to as Alexa) might seem like another tech toy. But if you take a closer look, you’ll see how this tool could improve quality of life for older adults with Alzheimer’s or dementia as well as for seniors with mobility limitations and other health conditions.

In this article, we’ll talk about:

  • How Echo helps seniors with dementia
  • Why it’s recommended by someone with Early Onset Alzheimer’s
  • Who else would benefit from Echo
  • How it works and how much it costs
  • Where to find reviews and demos

 

Echo for dementia

Caregivers often get frustrated because seniors with dementia repeat questions endlessly, need to be entertained, or get anxious when you’re not around. Having Echo there to answer questions, talk about news or weather, or play music can give caregivers much-needed breaks.

Echo can’t completely replace human touch or real conversation, but the intelligent voice controls can make it feel like a helpful friend.

Echo’s voice-activated features are great for seniors with dementia:

  • Instantly answers questions, like “what day is it?” or “what time is it?” — it’s a machine, so it will never get annoyed or frustrated!
  • Plays music and read audiobooks and the news — no need to fuss with complicated controls
  • Tells fun jokes and riddles
  • Looks up information about anything — like, “what’s playing on TV tonight?”
  • Reports traffic and weather

 

Recommended by an advocate who has dementia

Rick Phelps bought an Echo in February 2016. He’s 63 and was diagnosed with Early Onset Alzheimer’s disease in November 2010. After his diagnosis, he became an advocate for dementia awareness and founded the Memory People private Facebook community. Memory People now has over 13,000 members!

After about a week of use, Rick wrote a public blog post strongly recommending it to people with dementia. He doesn’t normally recommend products, so the fact that he raved about it means that it’s working really well for him.

Quotes from Rick’s positive review of the Echo
“It has afforded me something that I have lost. Memory. I can ask Alexa anything and I get the answer instantly. And I can ask it what day it is twenty times a day and I will still get the same correct answer.”

“’Alexa, remind me to take my medicine at 8:00am and 8:00pm everyday.’ Once you tell Alexa to do this, it will indeed remind you daily to take your medicine.”

“‘Alexa, play New York, New York, by Frank Sinatra.’  ‘Alexa, add paper towels to my shopping list.’ ‘Alexa, what is the weight of an elephant?’…All you need to do for this thing to read any book to you, is to have this book on audio. Which I buy all my books like. Since I can no longer read. That alone makes this thing worth it’s weight in gold to me.”

 

Who else would benefit from an Echo?

Older adults with mobility issues or health conditions like Parkinson’s can also benefit from an Echo. It gives them more control over their environment and more independence.

For example, a senior could easily turn on the light across the room or adjust the room’s temperature using only their voice. If they wanted to hear music or read a book, they could do it with another quick voice command. Without Echo, they’d have to ask someone else to help them with these simple tasks.

 

How does Echo work and how much does it cost?

It’s a $180 personal assistant
The Echo is basically a hands-free speaker that you control with your voice. It acts like a personal assistant by playing music, providing information like date, time, news, sports scores, weather, and helping with a variety of tasks.

It costs $180 and there are no additional fees.

How to use it
When you want to use the Echo, just say the word “Alexa” to wake it up and let it know that you’re giving it a command. Currently, there are 3 choices for the “wake word” — Amazon, Alexa, or Echo. The amazing thing is that the Echo responds instantly when asked a question.

Because you must use the wake word to activate the Echo, you could put a large sign on it with its “name” to make it easier for older adults with cognitive issues to remember.

How to set it up
Echo only needs a wireless network connection to work. You will need a computer or smartphone to set it up, but after that, it works with just the WiFi connection. It does need to be plugged in for power — it doesn’t use batteries.

Helpful reviews and demos
See the Echo in action in this helpful review and demo (11 min). Skip to 3 min 10 sec to see how Echo responds to a variety of everyday questions and commands. For another perspective, find out how a blind woman named Joy uses Echo.

Features and skills
Echo can connect to smart home devices to controls lights, switches, and thermostats. It also connects to the Alexa mobile app to create shopping and to do lists. Amazon is continuously improving the features and adding new “skills” — other services it connects with.

 

Bottom line

It’s not cheap, but the Echo could significantly improve quality of life for your older adult and give you a well-deserved break. It’s like an intelligent companion and helper that never gets tired, bored, or frustrated.

 

Next Step  Buy the Amazon Echo or check out the 48,000 positive reviews on Amazon.com

 

You might also like:
Robotic Cat Brings Joy to Seniors with Dementia
3 Easy Tech Tools Help Seniors Stay Connected
12 Engaging Activities for Seniors with Dementia: Reduce Agitation and Boost Mood

 

By DailyCaring Editorial Team
Image: Life After 60

5 Comments

  • Reply December 5, 2016

    Jane

    We too have the issue with taking medication. We’re going to try putting it on the calendar and then having a list of questions for Mom – “Alexa what’s on my calendar today” to which Alexa will say – take your pills. Then we’ll have Mom say “Alexa take take your pill off the calendar today.” Which should take it off for that day only – then when she checks in an hour what’s on her calendar for today the pills shouldn’t be on there. We’re still going to keep the check box we currently have on paper (have you taken your pills), for now. We’ll see if both work.

    • Reply December 5, 2016

      DailyCaring

      It’s great that you’ve thought of a system that could help your mom take her medication! And it’s also smart to have a backup system on paper. I hope both work well!

  • Reply July 2, 2016

    Janet Cameron

    As a long time Echo user who has tried repeatedly to find a way to set medication reminders (or any kind of reminders) I can tell you that it does not have that functionality as of this writing (July 2 2016) If you give the command “remind me to …”, it will simply add the item to your to do list in the app. I tried the command from the review quoted just now, in case there had been an update, and I now have the item “take my meds at 8 AM and 8 PM every day” on my to do list, and no reminder or notification whatsoever.

    Some research from various help desks and tech forums will uncover marginally useful workarounds, like basic alarms and paid third party apps (that you still need to open to see the actual reminder) but as of now, there is no way to get a specific reminder phrase to play at a designated time.

  • […] to see a doctor?” It asks simple questions with an app called KidsMD to help return results.   It’s also being used to help older patients with dementia.  As the keynote speaker put it, while a person will get tired of being asked, “What time is […]

Leave a Reply