Even if you don’t have one yourself, you are probably aware of the ‘personal virtual assistant’ phenomenon. Alexa by Amazon is the most well known, but Siri for iPhone and Cortana for Microsoft are also examples of voice-activated assistants that can help with everything from telling you what time it is to reminding you to lock the door at night. The assistants are built into a variety of devices including smartwatches, speakers and even lights.
Many families are now discovering that an Alexa device can be a useful addition to the home of loved ones living with dementia. Alexa never tires of answering the same question many times in a row, which is more than can be said for hassled relatives! It can be set to give useful reminders each day, play soothing music or audiobooks, and even though it doesn’t replace human touch or real conversation, the intelligent voice controls can make it feel like a helpful friend.
Prices start at around £30 for the Echo Dot, so it really is an affordable choice for most budgets. There is no ongoing subscription – you buy the device outright.
Of course there are limitations to this technology and only you can decide if it is right for your particular situation. For one, the loved one needs to be able to remember that the device is actually there, and also that it needs a ‘wake-up’ word to get it activated (‘Hey Google’ or ‘Alexa’). You could of course leave written reminders around the house to let them know – perhaps, for example where they would expect a CD player to be or by the front door. Some of the devices such as this one come with a large screen, which can be helpful to orient the older person or remind them that it is there to use.
So what do you need to set it all up? Alexa needs to be plugged in for power and connected to a wireless network in order to work. You’ll need a computer or smartphone to set it up, but after that, it works over the WiFi connection. As long as these things are in place it should be easy to set up and maintain.
If you want to know more, this is a great video on YouTube that explains how a son used this technology to stay in contact with his elderly mother.