New Gadget May Provide Answers for Dementia Patients


I have had a new product for about a week now and wanted to share with you how much it helps me. It is called the Amazon Echo. Before I tell you about the device itself, let me tell you what it does for me. I can answer this with one question: What day is it?

I ask Phyllis June this one question constantly, which you have probably heard me mention before. Dementia has prevented me from keeping track of the date, among many other things.

“So what?” you may ask. “What do you have to do that is so pressing you need to know what day it is?” The answer to this is, I don't have anything pressing to do. However, since we were young children, everything we do depends on knowing what day it is or what time it is. Most people do not realize this because knowing what day it is comes naturally to most everyone.

Not knowing is not natural, and it can be very unsettling.

This is where this phenomenal little device comes in. Alexa is the “wake word” for my Echo device. A “wake word” activates the device so that you can use it hands-free. Once turned on, Echo listens to what is being said constantly. It also listens for its “wake word” from you in order to answer any questions you ask it.

You can change the "wake word" to either Echo or Amazon, or simply leave it as Alexa.

“Alexa, what day is it?”

“Alexa, what time is it?”

“Alexa, is it going to rain?”

“Alexa, how many teaspoons are in a cup?”

“Alexa, set an alarm for 7:00 AM every day but Saturday.”

“Alexa, what time is Andy Griffith on tonight?”

“Alexa, what is my wife's phone number?”

“Alexa, how many days are there until Christmas?”

“Alexa, what is 345 x 37?”

“Alexa how far is it to Walmart?”

“Alexa, set a timer for ten minutes.”

You can ask this device anything. It only needs wifi to operate, and it processes and delivers answers in mere seconds. They are accurate, too. I have yet to trip this thing up.

“Alexa, remind me to take my medicine at 8:00 AM and 8:00 PM every day.”

Once you tell Alexa to do this, it will indeed remind you twice daily to take your medicine.

It can also play any music you want. This comes from the "cloud" that Amazon uses. Say your loved one loves an artist that you don't have any recordings of. No problem.

What about reading a book for you? It can do this also. All you need to do is have your desired book on audio. I only buy audio books these days since I can no longer read. Echo’s ability to read to me alone makes this thing worth its weight in gold to me.

“Alexa, play ‘New York, New York’ by Frank Sinatra.”

“Alexa, add paper towels to my shopping list.”

“Alexa, read the Bible.”

To many, the Amazon Echo is simply a cool thing to have; just another nifty electronic gadget. But to a dementia patient, it is much more than that.

It has afforded me something that I have lost: my memory. I can ask Alexa anything and I get the answer instantly. I can also ask it what day it is 20 times each day, and I will still get the same correct answer. (It also doesn’t get annoyed with me.)

The item sells for $179.00. Considering what this device does for me, I think it’s priceless.

I am not in the business of promoting items, and I have said this over and over. Over the years, I have been asked to promote certain things only because of my access to caregivers and dementia patients.

But, this item is indeed a miracle for me. I am writing a letter to Amazon about what this thing can do for a dementia patient. In the hundreds of reviews I have read and videos I have watched, they never mention using this product for a dementia patient.

I would never steer you wrong. Like I said, this item isn't cheap, and it does not look like it either. It weighs about three pounds and is very well built.

To get it to work, you simply plug it in and connect it to your wifi network. Once you've done that, you are ready to go. You can also add additional apps to the device to enhance its capabilities even further. There are countless possibilities for the Echo to help caregivers stay organized as well.

I hope you see the potential this thing has for you and your loved one. This obviously would not be something for someone in the later stages of the disease who has trouble speaking. But if you have a loved one who is repeatedly asking you the same questions, this may be the ticket. All they need to remember is their “wake word,” Alexa, Amazon or Echo.

Rick Phelps became an advocate for dementia awareness after being diagnosed with Early Onset Alzheimer’s Disease in June of 2010, at the age of 57. He was forced into early retirement and created Memory People, an online dementia and memory impairment group which supports over 7,000 individuals, all touched in some way by dementia.

While I Still Can

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Thank you SO much for being here. I am a caregiver for both my parents. They both both early signs of dementia. I also took care of my grandparents when needed for their POA (My Aunt)
Can you please add me to your blog. I have a ton of research to do. I am great ful I found you. God Bless
Thank you this is great to hear. I have been seriously considering the Amazon Show for my mom for these very purposes as well as the ability to "drop in" and check on her without her having to manipulate the Ipad to answer (never mind hear it) Face Time. My two concerns have been it's ability to understand her, she has aphasia and while her words are clear her thoughts don't always come out clearly and the likelihood she will remember the "wake word" and use it properly. I wasn't sure how sensitive the unit is to the order of the words around it and how adept it is at adapting to each persons speech. By the sounds of it though here you haven't had any issues remembering to use the "wake word" and the Echo at least (my understanding is they are all similar and using the same software) can pick up on the "wake word" amongst many others in the room so I assume then the order shouldn't be a problem. I get that doesn't guarantee she will remember all of the things it can do or adjust to talking to it but her problems with learning new and using technology seem to be more about steps of manipulation, like opening and going through the steps of using an app for instance. She can text when the pattern is set up for her but only if she does it every day, once she skips a day or 2 or more she needs to be taken through the steps again and it's just so hard for her. She spends hours trying to put it together and is overwhelmed by too many texts or text chains coming in from others like during a conversation that includes 3 or 4 of us. But she didn't use this technology most of her life, it isn't natural for her or embedded in her muscle memory like the need to know what day it is and what's on the schedule for the day.

I can't imagine people here most of whom have some direct experience with someone who has memory problems of some sort, would question your desire to know what day it is or actually think to ask why you would need to know. This very quickly became an important focus for my mom as well as a great source of anxiety when she doesn't feel she has a handle on it and this is obviously true for many if not most patients that come through the rehab facility she was in after her stroke. They have a big permanent white board on the wall of each room that has the date and schedule for each patient (provider/therapists name and specialty included) clearly written out right under the clock so all of that info is available to them all of the time from bed. Even though Mom wasn't able to "read" the clock yet at that time it was familiar to her (the second hand face style) and she thought she was so it gave her great comfort and she checked that schedule regularly, constantly referencing her next "appointment". When she got home we had to get a big month calendar as well as a current week calendar for the wall because not having that to refer to all day long was a huge source of anxiety and stress for her. We eventually got her 2 digital clocks with extra large numbers, one next to her bed and one on the TV so she could see the time but she still needed to ask what time it was every 5 min and "what we have next". It all makes total sense to me because a daily schedule is something each of us has had in our lives from the time we were born, it's one of those things that's so much part of our lives we don't think about or notice it and not having access to a calendar and clock, a schedule is disorienting. Isn't it one of those things they use to deprive prisoners? Movies or not you always hear stories about prisoners who marked off the days, found some way to keep track of the passing number of days to help keep themselves sane and believing in a future.

Back to Mom, I'm hoping the Amazon Show can fill all of those needs by working via voice rather than her having to type or write anything, speaking the answer to her as well as displaying it (the Echo doesn't do that and there is some comfort in being able to see it for her) and being able to deliver the time, date and appointment calendar. Plus the ability to play music and radio shows, read books, be an alarm clock, make lists, answer other questions, facilitate video chat's, give reminders and so on make it sound perfect for both Mom's needs and ours. Now that your review indicates these things really do work and work well for a person with short term memory issues I think I'm sold on spending the money and giving it a try. I do wish the screen was a little bigger for her and it sure would be nice if it could collect data via Bluetooth from her glucose meter and scale but I know that's getting way ahead of myself and right now just having her using 1/4 of the current options mentioned earlier would make it more than worth the price to us. Might even find it's worth having 2 or one Show and one Echo for different parts of the house. Thank you very much for your review and being open about your actual experience using it to help with your challenges.
I just bought two EchoShows for my brother's kids to help them communicate with him and his wife as his Alzheimer's progresses. I've been searching the web of sites like this so I could consolidate the experiences I gathered from caregivers with Echos. Frankly, AMAZON should be doing this as well as sponsoring research on how best to use their products for seniors. But as usual, AMAZON sells products like this primarily to get users buy more stuff. SHAME ON AMAZON for not hiring people to help caregivers who are trying to use their products under challenging conditions. We need feedback from users as well as medical professionals to help us all use these products the best way possible. But until then, we must search the web for sites like this were caregivers come for help. I'll pass on my feedback when I hear from my nieces and nephews.