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My dad, age 97, is currently living in Assisted Living with the least level of assistance (medicine assistance). He is capable of all ADL's but he can't see sufficiently to read or write and has some minor short-term memory issues. This means he can't write a note or see a clock or remember that there is an appointment or activity at a certain time. For years we have used an Amazon Alexa to provide him these alerts - wake-up alarms, reminders that dinner is being served in the dining room, happy hour is starting in the lounge, doctor's appointment in XX minutes, etc. He also uses it to create grocery lists for me (they show up on my phone) as he can't write out a list for me. It gives him a level of independence without having me constantly phone him with reminders.


The Assisted Living facility just sent a note to residents telling them that using an Alexa or similar device in their apartments is not allowed. I currently plan to just ignore this note but wondered if I could fight this rule under the American's with Disabilities Act as he is using it as an assistive device for his disability. Any ADA experts out there that can give me some insight into this?

I don't know what anyone else is saying (yet) but I say HELL YES! If this hasn't been done prior (claiming it via ADA) you be the first one! You've inspired me to check in with my sister who is just 4 years younger, but more tech savvy to learn more about this and see if it might not be helpful here. That's with dad going on 102 and deaf, but uses an iphone; and mom is 96 and has dementia but is still somewhat functional. She uses hearing aids so she could hear the voice of Alexa. Why in the world would the AL say they are not allowed? Noise? People can be loud as well. In fact, from a legal perspective, I'd be thinking this is a violation of one's personal rights. I'd be contacting an elder law attorney for some input and guidance. What will they ban next? Telephones, computers, TV's? And you know what...I wonder if there is some way to go to the top of Amazon's company and ask THEM for some assistance if this goes further. I bet they would love to know someone is trying to ban their product! Go get 'em!!!
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Reply to gdaughter
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I would come forward and challenge the facility's ban on these. Likely, as others have said, it has to do with privacy and HIPAA issues. By banning them altogether, they (theoretically) avoid security breaches. But smartphones aren't called that for no reason; they can probably be manipulated to "listen," too.

I'd ask why directly. Maybe contact your area's office on aging, the state agency that governs ALFs/others, etc. See what your rights are in the matter. Maybe even gain support of family members of other residents there who use these things for their loved ones. I'm a Luddite - had no idea these Dot things could be so useful. I bought myself 2 for Christmas...but I have no idea how to use them! (Couldn't resist the price.) Your idea of appealing to the person in charge's IT capabilities is interesting. Don't succumb to tech - get in front of it so it can help other residents. The app is a great idea.

Such an interesting question. Do share the resolution when you have one. Good luck.
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Reply to shb1964
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What is their reasoning, their wifi can't deal with them?

Call your state or county agency of the blind and run it by them. If this is a tool he needs to better the quality of his life, then the AL has to allow it. You should have a County Dept of disabilities you can call.

If the wifi is the problem, then ask if he can have private wifi. If he is paying for cable, then he can get wifi.
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gdaughter Feb 5, 2019
Just to add: as said prior my dad is deaf. He uses the dictation app on his iphone to have others speak, then he reads what was said. One time he was having a nerve block procedure in a "branch" office of the Cleveland CLinic. For "safety" motivated reasons, they took away his iphone and his eyeglasses, and consequently because of the ignorance took away his ability to communicate and violated his rights under the ADA. I was in the waiting room and clueless until a so called nurse or aide came out requesting family to help communicate because "all" they wanted to do was ask if he would like a beverage. I got in touch with the higher ups who were VERY concerned and apologetic and conveyed retraining would be done. I think we would have had a legal standing if we had pursued it. It's quite something...now it's like if you convey he is deaf, they jump and want to know if we need a translator...but dad does not sign.
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This gentleman is in his own self-contained apartment in the facility, yes? He has consented to the system and can be presumed to understand what it does. Any issues being discussed within hearing of the device should be his issues; anyone in his apartment can be made aware that he is using the device; anyone in his apartment discussing another resident's issues is violating HIPAA requirements anyway and maybe it's no bad thing if they get busted for it.

What privacy violations, then, that we're not all vulnerable to wherever we go?
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Reply to Countrymouse
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A few people on the forum have mentioned using these kinds of devices as a kind of remote surveillance tool, I imagine that is the thing that the ban is attempting to address. This is only going to get more complicated as new technology races ahead of the laws and policies designed to protect our privacy.

BTW, I love your idea of having a smart assistant available in every room, using tech that way is a brilliant idea!
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JoAnn29 Feb 1, 2019
Maybe thats the problem. They don't want the aides being taped.
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This is a fascinating thread. I don't have one of these devices but I see where their use in caregiving is wonderful.
Keep us posted as to outcome.
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Reply to Segoline
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Original poster here -
I haven't asked the ALF what their concern is as I plan to keep using it until they specifically ask him to get rid of it. Since they provided no explanation other than "No Alexa or alexa-like devices are allowed" I have no idea what their concerns are. It does run on their building provided wifi but if wifi was a concern they should ban all smart TV's, and streaming media devices which take far more bandwidth. He is in a separate 1 bedroom apartment with full privacy - lock on the door, etc.

The really crazy part is that their new director has a background in Information Technology and I was just getting ready to ask if they could develop an Alexa app that could be used to keep residents informed of activities and menus. I thought an app that residents could query each day on the activities, events and menus of the day would be very helpful. Won't be asking that question now! They post the info in the elevator and at the concierge desk but my dad can't read any of it. I use Alexa to keep him informed.

I've thought about the smart phone idea with it attached to a bluetooth speaker. It could perform the same functions, just in an unnecessarily clumsy manner. Whatever he has it must be voice activated as he is blind.
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JoAnn29 Feb 1, 2019
I would still call Depts of the Blind and Disabilities to be ready.
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The director is in IT so he must have security concerns. At the end of last year, there was alot of publicity about Alexa "accidentally" recording conversations and sending them to the wrong person. I believe somewhere in Europe, it actually sent home alarm codes to a wrong person.

Another thing is in facilities, there is a secure wifi and a guest account. The secure wifi is for staff not residents so these devices should not be over public wifi.

There are facilities that actually provide these virtual assistants to all residents in a more secure fashion. If OP does not like a facility policy, there are others out there willing to accomodate.
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gdaughter Feb 5, 2019
Interesting. I wonder (not knowing) how much of a security risk is involved here, or if those who have them couldn't sign a release, or if security precautions couldn't be taken. The dark side of tech I guess. My dad had a pacemaker and at one follow up when they learned we didn't receive the remote monitoring unit, they got us one...only to discover a potential for the security of that to be breached so for instance someone could do harm /reset the pacemaker. There's a fix, but it has to be done with the potential for a medical crisis since it is in the off mode for 1-2 minutes...and from what we learned, the facility would be more concerned about Dad's well-being doing that and the phrase was "not on my watch." The odds of bad things happening are basically nil; and one way to avoid the entire risk was just to unplug the unit and go in for rechecks every 6 months, which we find more reassuring anyhow.
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I hope you will get a reason, on paper, why this device is being banned. And need more proof than " it's potentially intrusive" ...yada, yada... statement.
I'll be following on this discussion.
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Reply to onlyoneholly
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That's just crazy. I would ask them why they are banned. It can't be a noise issue or they would have to ban TVs too.

If they insist on the ban, get your dad a smartphone. They can't ban them from having a phone right? Google assistant on a smartphone is as good as a Alexa. He'll just have to say "OK Google" instead of Alexa.
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JoAnn29 Feb 1, 2019
Just got an email fro Google, they are closing down a lot of their stuff.
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