Alexa for dementia. Dementia refers to a disease that impairs human cognitive functions, including thinking, communication, and memory. It is a degenerative disease that interferes with the daily lives of individuals and imparts various elements of it, such as the ability to focus, talk, or even see.
Alzheimer’s disease is the most familiar and common form of dementia along with vascular dementia, which occurs after a stroke. Previously, dementia was a disease that was associated with ageing; however, this has recently been changing. Changes in the biology of humans, as well as their lifestyles, has resulted in an increase in the occurrence of dementia. The number of people suffering from dementia is estimated to be at a population of 47.5 million, a number that keeps growing as people under the age of 65 are also being affected by the disease.
Because the disease usually impairs the quality of life for individuals, it demands that the individuals directly or indirectly affected by the disease are given the necessary emotional support and specialized practical skills by trained nurses.
With the need for support amongst dementia patients growing, one would expect a paradigm shift in terms of digital interventions to offer support, but very few have been forthcoming thus far. However there have been a few technological advances such as with the invention of “Alexa” a virtual assistant developed by Amazon that is capable of numerous activities such as voice interactions, preparing to do lists, streaming podcast and music, playing audio books, and providing information such as weather, traffic and news in real time.
A lot of people typically always have an existing system that helps them with their tasks which is why Alexa’s design makes it possible for it to be used by dementia patients as it can be used as a home automation system and its capabilities extended through the installation of a third-party app known as skills. Below are some devices that have low interaction cost and feature Alexa that can help with Dementia patients. For those who are looking for a bit more than just the traditional Dementia Clock, why not check out the devices below.
Amazon Echo – 2nd Gen
The Amazon echo 2nd Gen is a voice-activated smart speaker that has Alexa incorporated to its functionality and acts as the user’s assistant. The speaker utilizes Dolby processing, beamforming, and noise cancellation technology alongside seven microphones to ensure to deliver crisp vocals with deep bass and clear highs. With the Amazon Echo 2nd Gen, users can be heard from any direction even when music is playing, and the sound produced is 360-degree omnidirectional audio that is immersive in whatever room it is playing.
Because it is possible to set up Amazon household accounts, a patient’s echo can be set and controlled remotely through an app.
- It is reasonably priced and extremely affordable.
- The sound produced by the speaker is immersive, and as such, it can create the sensation of height and augmenting a patient’s listening experience. Patients with dementia will often require repetition, and as such, it is crucial that the sound, they hear from the speaker is clear.
- The speaker is available in three different colours, i.e. sandstone fabric, heather grey fabric, and charcoal fabric. Most dementia patients usually require muted and toned-down colours that will not confuse them or cause havoc to their routine. The colours of the Amazon Echo 2nd Gen are just perfect for this.
- Patients and their caregivers can call almost anyone hands-free, including mobile and residential numbers in the UK.
- It is equipped with a setting for voice training in the app, which is helpful for dementia patients with communication issues.
- Alexa on the Amazon Echo 2nd Gen occasionally mishears what a user may say which means that patients may occasionally have to repeat themselves. This is frustrating for dementia patients who are often very irritable.
- It is not equipped with a battery or wireless charging and often requires an adapter to function. This limits its use as well as portability
Echo Dot – 3rd Gen
The Echo Dot 3rd Gen is one of the most popular voice-controlled speakers that incorporate Alexa. The 3rd Gen is an improvement from previous iterations of the speaker, and as such, it is much louder and clearer than previous versions. The speaker is available in a choice of three finishes, including charcoal, grey, and sandstone, which are perfect for individuals suffering from dementia. Unlike previous iterations, this speaker has additional features which users can add using the Amazon Alexa Skills.
It can also be used for smart home control/ home automation as it is capable of controlling devices that are compatible with it, such as the Philips Hue bulbs or the Dyson 360 Eye robot vacuum cleaner.
- The Echo Dot has numerous skills such as the “Ring Alexa” skill that notifies users when it senses motion, or someone rings the bell. Because Dementia patients often suffer from loss of some cognitive capabilities, the skills app helps jog their memory through simple things such as playing the true or false game or doing simple mathematics.
- The speaker is simple to use and set up, which is ideal for dementia patients who get easily frustrated.
- As the Echo Dot relies on producing speech, the sound quality of the speaker is great and makes it easier for patients and even their caregivers to understand Alexa.
- The speaker is cheap and affordable.
- The speaker requires a power adaptor, unlike previous versions which powered using a USB port. The need for a power adaptor means that is will not function unless it is plugged in, and it becomes less portable than before.
Echo Plus – 2nd Gen
Powered by Dolby play 360-degree audio, the Echo Plus 2nd Gen has a built-in Zigbee hub that facilitates the effortless setup and control of your compatible smart home devices. The speaker features seven microphones, beam-forming technology, and noise cancellation, which all combine to produce crisp vocals and dynamic bass response.
Incorporating Alexa in its functionality, this Echo Plus 2nd Gen is ideal for dementia as it can be used on any compatible Echo devices in different rooms and has the smart capability to function as a hub for all sorts of other smart home tech such as light bulbs, security cameras or switches.
- The Echo Plus is easy to set up and use. The Echo Plus has a very simplistic and industrial design, which is ideal for dementia patients. Depending on the dementia stage, the less complicated the device, the better for the patients.
- The speaker has seven distinct microphones which pick up whims and voice commands. The device is so good that it can predictably pick out a user’s voices from noisy environments rather adeptly.
- It is possible to create a ‘stereo pair’ using two Echo Plus speakers to create an even more immersive and clear sound for dementia patients whose hearing has been affected by the disease.
- The number of supported smart home devices on the Echo Plus 2nd Gen is limited.
Amazon Echo Spot
The Echo spot uses 2nd generation far-field voice recognition to Control compatible smart home devices. Unlike other smart speakers discussed above, the Echo Spot has video capabilities and brags a sleek design that makes it ideal to be placed in any location, including the bedroom, kitchen, office, etc. The Echo spot is capable of achieving numerous functions and has a voice interface that is easy enough for dementia patients to get comprehend.
Dementia patients can get the Echo Spot to do some several activities such as turning on your lights, showing baby monitors and front door cameras, locking doors, and even controlling thermostats, switches, and more. The Echo Spot is constructed with various security layers and controls on privacy. Users can electronically disconnect the microphones and camera, by pushing the ‘microphone/camera off ‘ button.
- It is equipped with video recording capabilities which are ideal for both patients and caregivers as patients can use it to remind them of where they place things while caregivers can use it to monitor a patient’s activities. The quality of video captured by the speaker is great and clear enough for tracking and monitoring purposes.
- The speaker has a drop-in feature that enables users to use the speaker as a visual intercom, and as such, you can video call other users who own Echo devices.
- The interface is extremely intuitive and user-friendly.
- The video on the speaker is usually cropped, and if the speaker is not positioned appropriately, you can miss out on important activities that could be used to infer a patient’s behaviour.
Echo Show 2nd Gen
The echo show is a simple, smart home speaker with touch interactivity as an additional input rather than the speaker’s main experience; the show is a voice first speaker fitted with a 10″ HD screen and incorporates Alexa for functionality. The Echo show facilitates compatibility of Zigbee devices without the need for a separate hub, which means users can connect several compatible devices. It is equipped with a passive bass radiator and two twin speakers that make it possible to easily fill a room.
- The Echo show is one of the best smart home control speakers available currently in the market which make it easier for dementia patients to continue with their daily lives uninterrupted if they have devices that are compatible with the Echo show.
- The speaker can produce a wider soundscape, which is ideal for patients in all stages of dementia.
- The speaker has “Try Alexa” tips you can’t turn off, which means dementia patients can rely on Alexa without feeling frustrated as they can ask the same thing repeatedly.
- It is the most expensive product on the list.
- Unlike other Amazon smart speakers, we have discussed above, the Echo show is bigger and harder to blend in with furnishings, and as such can be disruptive for the routine of patients with dementia.
Benefits of Alexa for Dementia Patients
Dementia usually occurs in stages, and each stage affects patients differently. The use of Alexa for dementia patients, caregivers, and their support system is a new and innovative way to leverage technology towards assistive care for individuals in the early to mid-stages of dementia. Thus far there have been several benefits witnessed including;
- Most of the devices incorporating Alexa are hands-free. Since the disease affects a patient’s dexterity, the handsfree feature is great as there is no touch or typing necessary should the patient need to use the device to for example call for help or order for food.
- Alexa does not get frustrated. Because of the disease’s nature, patients may often require to repetitively ask the same question. Unlike humans, Alexa does not get frustrated or emit signs of frustration through this phase, which means patients can ask the same thing over and over for as long as they feel like.
- There is the possibility of recording conversations between a patient and Alexa, which can be used to deduce useful inferences from the noticeable changes occurring in the patient’s routine/ life. From these inferences, a caregiver can find ways in which they can improve the patient’s life/ meet their needs.
- Alexa can be used for relaxation purposes. Dementia patients, caregivers, and support system often experience anxiety, stress, and are easily frustrated; Alexa can play music or sound that is soothing and likely to induce relaxation. This goes a long way in improving the wellbeing of dementia sufferers.
- With Alexa, it is possible to set reminders and alarms that are necessary for patients for example if they need to take their medication or schedule a doctor’s visit or any other activity that they need to remember. It is also possible to integrate a patient’s/ caregivers Google calendar so Alexa has access to it and can give reminders on important events.
Alexa has made it possible for patients with dementia, as well as their caregivers to be able to function efficiently and effectively. One of our favourite things about most of the Alexa incorporated devices is that they include a history section which allows caregivers to track patients queries to Alexa and as such monitor their wellbeing. While more strides need to be made to improve the functionality of digital devices to aid dementia patients, Alexa is a step in the right direction.