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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?

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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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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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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 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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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 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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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 2019
I would still call Depts of the Blind and Disabilities to be ready.
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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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If you just go ahead and use it, you may arrive one day and find it missing. I would challenge them on their rule. The reasons you got it for him more than begin to prove it's an assistant device to make his life easier. I live alone but have an Echo Dot and use it for all the reasons you have for him use it. And I love the fact it will tell me a joke to cheer me up.
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gdaughter Feb 2019
She tells jokes? God, we could sure use one in the office! I wonder if we could program it to tell someone they are wearing too much cologne? Or to shut up because they are TOO LOUD!
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I would first just ask them their reasoning and then explain how and why you are using it for your father. See if you can work it out before getting all het up about it.
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