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Using Amazon Echo or Google Home for Caregiving

Amazon Echo for Caregiving

Caregiving can be a challenge, but with smart voice assistants like Google Home or Amazon Echo, you can make caregiving fun.

If you’re an Amazon Echo or Google Homeowner, you may only ask your device for the weather or to play music. That’s O.K., but these devices can do so much more — and they can offer more than a few useful tricks to make you feel as if you’re living in the future.

Some of these can make your mornings a little brighter, while others can make your evenings more relaxing. To get the most of these Alexa commands, you’ll need to enable the skills from the Alexa Skills store first, and the Google Home commands and settings have to be enabled in your Google Home mobile app.

Both the Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa offer a “routines” skill, which automates certain tasks based on a single command. For example, you can ask your Amazon Echo or Google Home to tell you the weather and what’s on your calendar for the day, after saying “Alexa, start my day” or “Hey Google, good morning.” With this particular routine, there are nine actions the Google Home can perform, including reading the day’s top stories or local news, and then transition into six other actions like playing your favorite music or a preferred podcast to finish up your “morning.” On the Echo, there are four basic options, but you can add eight more to lengthen the routine.

The Google Home has six ready-to-go routines that you can customize in the Google Home app, and the Amazon Echo has one. You can also create completely custom routines on both devices.

Parents, this one might be a lifesaver — for your voice: Both products let you broadcast an announcement across other devices in your home. So, if you have an Echo in the kitchen, living room and a child’s bedroom, you can say, “Alexa, announce that dinner is ready,” and Alexa will repeat the message on each device in your voice — no skill necessary.

With the Google Home and Google Home Mini, you can do a similar command: “Hey Google, tell everyone it’s time to go.” If you’re an iOS user and want to do this but you’re away from home, you’ll have to separately download the Google Assistant app (Android users already have the Assistant enabled if they have the latest version of the operating system).

You might’ve heard of this but were dubious whether hands-free calling was actually possible, or easy. The good news: It is. The so-so news: There are a few steps you need to take before your hands-free calling dreams come true.

On Amazon Echo devices, you first have to sync your contacts in the Alexa app. Then, simply ask Alexa to call any of these people. A bonus feature on Echo devices is that you can call a friend or family member on their Echo device, like an Echo Spot or any device with Alexa installed. To enable this, both you and the person you’re trying to contact must have Alexa Calling and Messaging turned on. Then, you can call anyone from your mobile contacts. If that person has signed up, he or she will get a phone call on the Echo device or in the Amazon Alexa app.

With the Google Home, first link your Google account to your Google Home, turn on “personal results” and then sync your contacts. You’re ready to go, and you can ask Google to call anyone in your contacts list. You can also set hands-free callingto reveal your number when you call, so people can know it’s you and not an unfamiliar proxy number used to connect the call. (The Echo offers the same capability.)

For now, both devices don’t support calling emergency services, so no “Alexa, call 911” for you. Hands-free calling with Alexa works only in the United States, Canada and Mexico and only in the U.S., Canada and the U.K. for the Google Home.

Need a moment to yourself? Try meditating or relaxing with both devices with a few free, guided meditations from Headspace. On Google, you can say, “Hey Google, talk to Headspace”; on Alexa, request “Alexa, open Headspace.” If you’re a subscriber, you can continue a meditation from your phone onto your device. If you want general meditation content, you can say something along the lines of “Alexa, help me relax,” or “O.K. Google, help me meditate.”

Both devices can also help you calm down with commands like “O.K. Google, help me relax,” and sounds like rain falling will play — or white noise if you’re using it to go to sleep. The Echo is similar, but you can pick and choose what types of sounds you want to hear from the skills store. Google can also play “sleep sounds,” which are really lullabies meant for children, while the Echo offers white or ambient noise. Just say “Alexa, help me sleep” for options.

Sure, these devices can play music and add items to your cart, but it’s a little annoying to start every single request with “Alexa” or “O.K. Google.” Thankfully, Amazon and Google realized this. On the Google Home, the “Continued Conversation” feature allows you to ask your device a question, and the microphone stays on for eight additional seconds to see if you’ll ask a follow-up. (You do need to enable this in the settings of the Google Home app, as the feature is turned off by default.) The Amazon Echo also has the feature, except Amazon calls it “Follow-up mode” and you also have to turn it on in the app before using it.

Once it’s on, you can ask questions like “Who sang ‘In My Feelings?,’” and once your device responds with “Drake,” you can ask “How old is he?” and the device will not only know who “he” refers to but also answer without missing a beat. (Spoiler: Drake is 31.)

This feature has also paved the way to ask the device to do multiple things in one command. For example, with “multiple actions” on Google Home devices, you can say something like “Hey Google, turn up the thermostat and tell me the weather.” On the Echo, you can’t do it in a single sentence, but with follow-up mode you can just ask the two different commands one after the other.

Google’s later start in the smart home arena wasn’t necessarily a bad thing. The extra time allowed it to come up with some truly useful exclusive features. For example, if you download and use the Google Assistant app in addition to Google Home, you can ask Google to remind you to do something at a certain location. So, if you need to buy milk at the grocery store, you can say “Hey Google, remind me to buy milk at the grocery store,” and as soon as you’re near your preferred store (which Google will ask you to specify), your phone will let you know what you need.

And if you’re in the mood for a nice story at the end of a long workday, just say “Hey Google, tell me something good,” and Google Assistant will read some “feel-good” stories.

Amazon’s focus in the smart home space has long been less about automation or routines and more about who you are as a person. For example, the seven-minute workout skill will walk you through a quick, high-intensity workout just by saying, “Start seven-minute workout.” If you have an Echo Show or Spot, both of which have LCD displays, you’ll also see images walking you through some exercises.

Another example is “Alexa Donations,” where with an easy “Alexa, I want to make a donation,” you can donate $5 to $5,000 to the charity or cause of your choice. At the moment, 154 nonprofits work with Amazon and Alexa Donations to make it possible.

With these new commands, you and your home should be on the way to becoming smarter — and more useful. Sure, these devices can play music and set timers, but these tips can help you get even more of your money’s worth.

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Amazon Alexa empowering seniors to stay healthy!

Alexa for health

Dr. on call

Too busy to call your doctor’s office? Well now you can simply shout at Alexa from the comfort of your couch for slightly similar results. Echo owners are able to hear physician-reviewed answers to questions about certain medical conditions and symptoms, drugs, side effects, tests and treatments by simply asking Alexa about them.

So now it’ll be even easier to spend hours on end trying to determine whether that teeny, tiny, probably harmless splinter you got in your pinky finger could lead to your imminent demise. Woo!

Generally speaking

Looking for answers to your health question, worried about drug side effects, WebMD has the answers for you. Looking for self-care instructions for dozens of everyday mishaps and other situations, then Mayo Clinic First Aid may have some answers for you. On the other hand, Dr. A. I. engages with you in an empathetic conversation.  And mention your symptoms as a “dry cough and fever”, then Symptom Checker has solutions for you.

Diabetes tracking

Now you can track all your diabetes data via voice command with Amazon Alexa! The One Drop Alexa Skill uses Amazon voice technology along with the One Drop app to create a quick and seamless experience for both people with diabetes and their caregivers. Sugarmate on the other end allows you to ask Alexa about your latest glucose readings from a Dexcom CGM, while The Insulin Calculator provides a straightforward and easy way to calculate insulin doses for people with diabetes. It is intended for educational purposes to help with standard insulin dose calculations.

Chronic conditions

To track other chronic conditions try myNursebot.

Before you pop that pill

When it works, the WebMD Alexa Skill is helpful, but unfortunately, many users report the skill has trouble recognizing drug names when they’re spoken aloud. Drug Facts pulls up information from both the Food and Drug Administration and the National Library of Medicine, but you must know the 10-digit National Drug Code number to get your drug questions answered.

Your doctor and hospital connect to Alexa

For urgent care clinic locations, various local Alexa Skills are launching. OhioHealth delivers phone numbers, wait times, and hours of operation for hospitals and healthcare clinics under the OhioHealth umbrella. To see the average, not real time, wait times, try Average ER wait times for hospitals near me.

Babies and kids

For children’s health, KidsMD by Boston Children’s Hospital is a bit too chatty — but still useful for answering questions, and gives dosing recommendations for children based on their weight for common over-the-counter medicines. To look up childhood immunization recommendations based on the U.S. vaccination schedule, Baby Shot will tell you what is advised for your child’s age.

Need help in the middle of the night — or honestly any time at all? Hatch Baby has doctor-recommended advice, while also keeping track of a baby’s sleep schedule, along with dirty and wet diapers. Even more expansive, the Baby Stats Alexa Skill tracks due dates, kicking, bottles drunk and diaper activity for multiple babies.

Now, who said about wait times at the doctor’s clinic…..

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Have a Spooktacular Halloween With Your Own Haunted Smart Home

THE HOLIDAY SEASON is in full swing, which means we’re all whipping out our decorations and decking our homes out for the festivities ahead. First up: Halloween. That means it’s time to get your spook on. Between monstrous masks that evoke the horror icons who haunt our nightmares (thanks, Chucky), and our favorite home decor (like […]

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How I got my grandmother hooked to Audible

Home Automation

Amazon Alexa

First, Evelyn Moore tried to read books with a magnifying glass. Then, she turned to a tablet to make the words on her e-books larger. Eventually, she couldn’t even see that. The 95-year-old was losing her sight, and with it, one of her favorite hobbies.

“She wasn’t able to read anymore, and that was a big loss,” said her son James Moore.

Last year, the younger Moore had an idea: What if he could get his mom a device that could read books to her without the need to navigate a control screen that she had a hard time seeing?

That device turned out to be the Amazon Echo, an internet-connected smart speaker that responds to voice commands. James Moore figured that he could buy his mother audiobooks from Audible, then teach her to use voice prompts to have the Echo play the audiobook.

At first, Evelyn Moore was a little wary.

“It took a little while to convince her of it,” James Moore said. “Her thought was that we’re going to have wires everywhere.”

Eventually, she agreed to try it. It’s been nearly a year, and she’s listened to 178 books.

Smart home gadgets like the Amazon Echo can provide an extra layer of comfort and protection for older adults who want to stay in their own homes as they age. They can also give caregivers or adult children like Jim Godek a means to monitor them, especially if they don’t live close to one another.

Evelyn Moore isn’t alone. Roughly 90 percent of seniors intend to continue living in their current home for the next five to 10 years, according to a survey taken by the AARP in 2012. But change — in the form of new technology — can be scary and intimidating. How do you tell your parents you want them to use a smart home device to help them live independently?

“Starting any kind of conversation with the elderly can be tricky,” said Barbara McVickers, an elder care expert, and author. “Mom and Dad sometimes don’t want to talk about this. They see this as a role reversal. They still want to be in charge. It becomes a tug-of-war with the parents wanting to be autonomous and the child caring about the well-being of their parents.”

Here are some tips on how to start a conversation with your parents about upgrading to smart home tech for their benefit — and yours:

  • Include them in the conversation instead of telling them what to do. “If we just go blaring in there as adult children, they’re going to really dig their heels in,” McVickers said. Listen to their own concerns, and share your own, too.
  • Call a family meeting to talk about how you want to help your parents. Bring in your siblings or other family members who provide care for your parents so “everyone is deciding together what is best for mom and dad,” McVickers said. Consider bringing in a third party your parent’s trust so they can provide some perspective, too, such as their physician, insurance agent or a family friend.
  • Provide a real-life example of how a gadget could help. Do you have a friend whose parents’ home got broken into who could have benefited from a security system? Use stories like that to illustrate the need to add some devices to their homes. And discuss how a device could help make your life easier, especially if you are the primary caregiver. McVickers suggests that you make a statement like this: “I’m doing this out of love and safety, but we need to know how we can help you age the way you wish.”
  • If your parents are on board with adding a smart home gadget to their routine, pick something that’s simple and requires little interaction. New technology is intimidating, and something too difficult to learn can turn off aging parents. For your parents to successfully make a new device a part of their lives, “it almost has to work flawlessly without their interaction,” McVickers said. (Check out these smart home devices that are easier to use.)
  • Install new devices for your parents and write down step-by-step instructions for how to use them. “If Mom and Dad can’t use it, it’s not helpful at all,” McVickers said.
  • Make sure your parents have a reliable internet connection and Wi-Fi network if the devices you choose rely on Wi-Fi. Here are some Wi-Fi systems that will help make sure your parents and their devices stay online.
  • Reevaluate how your parents are doing with the new device.Check in regularly to see if the device is helping them. Stay on top of your parents’ needs since they could change and require new and different technology.
  • Know when to accept defeat. Your parents might be adamant against changes to their routine. “There’s a certain point you can’t do anything else,” McVickers said. “They’re adults. Forgive yourself if you don’t get everything in place.”For Evelyn Moore, the introduction of the Amazon Echo into her home has had a huge impact, according to her son.”She has made the comment that she can look forward to something brand new every day when she gets up,” he said.

    They’ve added a smart thermostat to Evelyn Moore’s home that she can voice-control, too. But all of the additions have to be on her terms.

    “It’s still her life,” James Moore said. “I can have all the input I want, but it’s her choice.”