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“Alexa! Please play the 1812 Overture!” spoke the gruff voice firmly. Within seconds, beautiful notes floated through the air and my father-in-law smiled in content. The newest wave in smart home technology, Amazon’s Alexa had already earned a high place in my aging loved one’s life, giving him back some of the independence he had long given up.
Alexa, named after the ancient library of Alexandria, was created by Amazon as a voice control system. It’s capabilities (tweaked continuously) have allowed products like the Echo, Dot and Tap to rocket up the sales charts, and have changed our culture - almost overnight.
Although teens and kids love it for its ability to play music and answer questions, it turns out that our aging population can benefit greatly from its use as well.
A home-health aid brought this virtual personal assistant to my attention as a highly recommended product to help my father-in-law regain some of his independence. Being eighty-five percent blind had not helped the fact his body had caught up with his eighty-six years, and his mild dementia was making doing things on his own even more of a challenge.
In the end, her suggestion had been right on the money. Once he had become familiar with the word “Alexa,” he rarely forgot it, perhaps due, in part, to its constant use. Each day started with a request for the local weather and the recent news. As the day progressed, Alexa told him stories, jokes, sang songs and played him his favorite classical music. In truth, one could easily make the claim that Alexa had become more than a technological advancement: it was his companion.
As his caregiver, I had always struggled with providing for his needs on a constant basis while being fully aware that my father-in-law felt such a longing to fulfill these needs for himself. Once the Alexa debuted in our home, life change dramatically, not only for him, but for myself as well. His requests for help decreased substantially, and he clearly developed a new sense of contentment as he accomplished things on his own. Lights could be adjusted without the struggle of getting out of a chair, and a grocery list could be found prepared and ready. For certain, the benefits were limited only by our imagination.
The Alexa experience can be best enjoyed on the Amazon Echo, Echo Dot and Tap. However, there are even some third parties getting in on the action, including Pebble Core and the LG SmartThinQ hub. The smartwatch called CoWatch has even integrated the Alexa technology.
Alexa has taken over our culture by storm, and its applications can be found almost anywhere. There is only one application, however, that has topped my pedestal. It is the application of true independence that it has gifted to one wonderful, aging senior.
As many take advantage of the sales on Black Friday, I encourage other caregivers to take a look at Alexa technology to see if it might be a good fit for your loved one. I know that I, for my part, will never regret Alexa's extended visit in our home! :)
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