Mother’s Day is around the corner!
My ever so clever friend Judy is today’s guest writer and shares resourceful advice for using technology to care for her elderly mother.
My 85-year-old mother is a widow, blind due to illness, and lives alone. When my brother and I convinced her to move up from Florida so she’d be closer to us, her first home “up north” was my furnished basement. Initially, I was comforted knowing she was safe, but living under the same roof was not ideal for either of us. While we are very close, we realized we each needed more privacy and autonomy. We found a wonderful apartment a few miles away. But, how would she be able to live alone if I wasn’t there to help?
That’s when the Amazon Echo, also known as “Alexa”, came into our lives and changed everything (no, I do not work for Amazon). At first, using the Amazon Echo began as an easy way for my mother to enjoy music since she cannot see well enough to operate a radio or CD player. “Alexa” is voice activated so all my mother has to do is talk to her in everyday language, no computer jargon at all. There is an Alexa app that I used to connect the device to WiFi. I also use the app to add “skills” as they are developed. “Skills” are things that Alexa can do such as: read the morning headlines, give a weather report, tell a joke and control many Alexa enabled electronics around the house.
To use the Amazon Echo/Alexa you only need a free Amazon account. To play music you can connect the device to your existing streaming music subscriptions, or get an Amazon Prime account. Amazon makes several models, but they all operate the same, so choose what fits your budget and your aesthetic.
Little did I know that Alexa would end up being such a helpful gadget for my elderly mother. Here is a rundown of all the ways I use the magic of Alexa for helping my mother:
- Alarms & Reminders – From pleasant wake-up music to a voice that says “Don’t forget to take your pills’. Mom just says “Alexa, wake me at 8:00 am” or “Alexa, remind me to take my pills at 7:00 pm”.
- Music – Alexa knows all the oldies by song name, artist or Album. She can also play by genre so a concert from the 1950’s or The Andrew Sisters keeps my mother busy for hours. And when my mother gets it wrong and asks her to play Maria Lanza instead of Mario Lanza, Alexa corrects her.
- Calendar – I keep my mother’s doctor appointments on a Google calendar. I synchronize the Google calendar with Alexa so my mother can ask at any time, “What’s on my schedule for today?” Don’t get intimidated by the idea of synchronizing a calendar. Amazon thought of everything and makes it super easy.
- To Do Lists – This is where my mother tells Alexa what groceries she needs and I check the app when I’m at the store. Alexa also connects to several grocery delivery companies, so she can also tell Alexa to add orange juice to her shopping cart.
- Intercom – Last week my mother knocked her phone off the hook. After checking via the camera** to ensure that she was safe, I was able to use Alexa to yell, “Hey mom, pick up the phone!”
- Emergency Alerts – Using the “Ask My Buddy” skill, I set up contact information for my brother and me. Now if my mother falls or needs help, all she has to do is yell, “Alexa, ask my buddy to send help.” Instantly, everyone on the list receives a call, text, and email. The great folks at Ask My Buddy don’t even charge for this service!
**We purchased a Samsung Smart Cam, but a video baby monitor uses the same technology and works just as well.
I must admit, after seeing how well the Amazon Echo worked for my mother, I bought several for my house. Now Alexa controls my music, lights, thermostat, and sprinklers. Saturday Night Live did a very funny skit about how Seniors use the Amazon Echo. My mother found it hysterical and I hope you will too. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YvT_gqs5ETk
Happy Mother’s Day!