Amazon Echo, your opinions welcome.

mumbasi

Registered User
Sep 1, 2013
106
A family member has told me today that they have heard that the Amazon Echo is a gadget that could be extremely useful for someone with dementia. My younger sister has had fronto temporal dementia for approximately 4 years and is obviously deteriorating especially in her language and cognitive abilities, can hardly use mobile or landline phone, finds it difficult to know what part of the day it is let alone what time it is, cannot use the oven or microwave, has recently been on medication and I thought I could ring her to remind her to take her pills but she had no Idea what I was talking about even though I had labelled each dose, so I stayed with her 24/7 for the 7 days treatment.

I would just like to hear if anyone on the forum has recent experience of using an Amazon Echo as an aid for themselves or their loved ones with dementia and what your opinions are about it, before I take myself down another frustrating path of getting nowhere. I would rather stay with her 24/7 than have her be stressed out trying to learn how to use another gadget, unless you have some rave reviews that will make me feel it might be worthwhile.

Thanks for reading this my brave and wonderful fellow travelers.
 

nitram

Registered User
Apr 6, 2011
19,707
North Manchester
"...I thought I could ring her to remind her to take her pills but she had no Idea what I was talking about even though I had labelled each dose, so I stayed with her 24/7 for the 7 days treatment."

Sorry, if she cannot respond to your intelligent conversation I think there is little chance of any device or software being of significant use.
 

Selinacroft

Registered User
Oct 10, 2015
936
I haven't used one or even seen one working but I thought you asked it intelligent questions and it kind of responded with the most likely thing you are talking about- a bit like a talking google search engine or more like Ask Jeeves.
For example if you said "What is the weather doing at Heathrow tonight? It might pick up keywords and say something useful. I think the value of what comes out probably depends on what you say to it. I can't imagine it being very useful in terms of dementia but no doubt someone will correct me if I am barking up the wrong tree.
 

Kevinl

Registered User
Aug 24, 2013
4,774
Salford
If she can't understand verbal instructions from you on the phone why would a machine fare any better? I guess the risk is that she says something nonsensical to you then you can correct her, Echo may try and make some sense of it and tell her the wrong thing. If you were to ask it "is it time for my tablets" would it know only to say yes and how often and for which tablet, if asked if it was bedtime would it know the correct answer for her? I can't see it working if she's past a phone instruction from a human being.
K
 

NancySpain

Registered User
Dec 27, 2016
19
We've got a couple of Echoes and get on pretty well with them. But they're not without faults. They fall offline randomly and then won't cooperate. They don't always understand what you are saying. My parents have dementia and I did think about whether Echo would be helpful. If I get dementia in the future and I've had years of talking to a device, maybe that will be ok for me but I can only see it scaring my parents, or annoying and frustrating them




Sent from my iPad using Talking Point
 

canary

Registered User
Feb 25, 2014
11,342
South coast
My OH has speech problems and voice recognition programs generally dont recognise what he is saying - and thats before he uses a wrong word, uses it or that instead of the word or or tries to describe the thing he wants to say!
 

Andrew_McP

Registered User
Mar 2, 2016
240
South Northwest
I picked up an Echo while they were cheap (well, cheaper!) in hope that it would help Mum feel a little more in control of basics like what day or time it is. Other devices/clocks have failed to reassure her. I also hoped she'd find it easier to access radio stations or even play a bit of Elvis when she wanted.

Initially Mum was very impressed by the voice controls, and managed to remember to say Alexa first. However without my guidance Mum's conversational approach to questions almost always confused the Echo, and it has to work first time, every time if you're going to avoid frustrations which make life worse, not better.

There were also a few instances where the Echo would randomly pick up on things said in the room and give puzzling replies, and I had the occasional error message from the Echo which confused even me, let alone Mum. So in the end it's gone in my room where I use it as... er, a clock radio. What a waste of technology! :)

Oh, and the ability to get it to play music only works if you have Amazon Prime (and therefore access to their music library) or Spotify Premium, otherwise it can only select from the music you've bought on Amazon.

One feature I really hoped would help was the ability to synch a Google calendar with the Echo. I would type detailed calendar entries into Google such as 22:00-06:35 "Andrew is at work at the moment. If you need to phone him, pick up the phone in the living room and press the A button". If Mum then got up in the night and wondered where I was, all she had to do was say "Alexa, what's on my calendar now" and it would speak the current calendar entry remarkable clearly.

However there was no way to change it so Mum could ask 'where is Andrew?' or something similarly obvious, and even if I left a note of what to say, it didn't help. So although the calendar feature is impressive it's not useful for anyone struggling with logic.

Ultimately dementia is the most assistance-resistant condition imaginable. One day we'll have robot companions capable of taking some of the strain in a care situation, but that day is not here yet, sadly.
 

mumbasi

Registered User
Sep 1, 2013
106
"...I thought I could ring her to remind her to take her pills but she had no Idea what I was talking about even though I had labelled each dose, so I stayed with her 24/7 for the 7 days treatment."

Sorry, if she cannot respond to your intelligent conversation I think there is little chance of any device or software being of significant use.
Thanks. That was my initial thinking, but I just wanted to find out more.
 

mumbasi

Registered User
Sep 1, 2013
106
If she can't understand verbal instructions from you on the phone why would a machine fare any better? I guess the risk is that she says something nonsensical to you then you can correct her, Echo may try and make some sense of it and tell her the wrong thing. If you were to ask it "is it time for my tablets" would it know only to say yes and how often and for which tablet, if asked if it was bedtime would it know the correct answer for her? I can't see it working if she's past a phone instruction from a human being.
K
Thanks, that is what I thought as sometimes it takes quite a while for us to understand each other. I just didn't want to be negative without finding out.
 

mumbasi

Registered User
Sep 1, 2013
106
We've got a couple of Echoes and get on pretty well with them. But they're not without faults. They fall offline randomly and then won't cooperate. They don't always understand what you are saying. My parents have dementia and I did think about whether Echo would be helpful. If I get dementia in the future and I've had years of talking to a device, maybe that will be ok for me but I can only see it scaring my parents, or annoying and frustrating them




Sent from my iPad using Talking Point
Yes that's what I thought, that it might only cause more stress not only to my sister but also to me trying to figure it out. Yes I hope that I can continue to use my computer and still play bridge if I get dementia. Who knows. Thank you for helping me understand it more.
 

mumbasi

Registered User
Sep 1, 2013
106
My OH has speech problems and voice recognition programs generally dont recognise what he is saying - and thats before he uses a wrong word, uses it or that instead of the word or or tries to describe the thing he wants to say!
Thanks for helping me understand this more.
 

mumbasi

Registered User
Sep 1, 2013
106
I picked up an Echo while they were cheap (well, cheaper!) in hope that it would help Mum feel a little more in control of basics like what day or time it is. Other devices/clocks have failed to reassure her. I also hoped she'd find it easier to access radio stations or even play a bit of Elvis when she wanted.

Initially Mum was very impressed by the voice controls, and managed to remember to say Alexa first. However without my guidance Mum's conversational approach to questions almost always confused the Echo, and it has to work first time, every time if you're going to avoid frustrations which make life worse, not better.

There were also a few instances where the Echo would randomly pick up on things said in the room and give puzzling replies, and I had the occasional error message from the Echo which confused even me, let alone Mum. So in the end it's gone in my room where I use it as... er, a clock radio. What a waste of technology! :)

Oh, and the ability to get it to play music only works if you have Amazon Prime (and therefore access to their music library) or Spotify Premium, otherwise it can only select from the music you've bought on Amazon.

One feature I really hoped would help was the ability to synch a Google calendar with the Echo. I would type detailed calendar entries into Google such as 22:00-06:35 "Andrew is at work at the moment. If you need to phone him, pick up the phone in the living room and press the A button". If Mum then got up in the night and wondered where I was, all she had to do was say "Alexa, what's on my calendar now" and it would speak the current calendar entry remarkable clearly.

However there was no way to change it so Mum could ask 'where is Andrew?' or something similarly obvious, and even if I left a note of what to say, it didn't help. So although the calendar feature is impressive it's not useful for anyone struggling with logic.

Ultimately dementia is the most assistance-resistant condition imaginable. One day we'll have robot companions capable of taking some of the strain in a care situation, but that day is not here yet, sadly.
Well I now have all the information I need to realise that there is little to gain by going down this route, thank you very much. I can now explain to the rest of the family why it will not be so useful for our Sis.
 

danonwheels

Registered User
Apr 13, 2016
230
Rotherham, South Yorkshire
As others have said, someone who is struggling with language will really struggle with one of these devices as that is the only way to use them.

However, there could be an idea here for a software developer to create something a bit more dementia specific for the Echo - something for example that could check the calendar entries upon being asked where someone is.

Maybe an idea to present to a research forum or something if one exists?
 

Murper1

Registered User
Jan 1, 2016
123
I'm reading this with interest as Mum has FTD, no speech etc. Yet very occasionally a coherent string of words come out! Also, if she has a pen and some paper, she writes pages and pages. But generally all it says is 'thingking thinking thinging thingking.....' or 'and'. If I ask her to write her name or mine, she writes it though usually with lots of 't's etc. So I feel as though the thoughts and words are in her head but she just can't find a way to get them out. I've tried making word cards and using an app that speaks words to see if that helps but so far no good. Does anyone else have any tips?