This question came in from Jeff M, who wants my tech advice on a delicate family situation. Here’s what he had to say:
Hi Kurt. I wanted to reach out to you for some advice. My wife is in the early stages of Alzheimer’s. She has trouble turning the TV on and selecting channels.We stream YouTube TV through the Amazon Fire Stick. Is there any device I could use to help her with that process? Also is there a way for her to call my phone if I’m at the market for example?She has a cell phone but does have trouble remembering how to find my number. I asked a few people but I get all sorts of answers.Thank You very much! Jeff M.
Having a loved one with Alzheimer’s is incredibly difficult and stress-inducing, so I have some suggestions to help Jeff, his wife, and anyone else out there with a loved one with Alzheimer’s, dementia, or other memory health issues who could use some extra help.
Devices for easier control of your TV
Jeff mentioned that his wife has some trouble turning on the TV and selecting channels for herself. One option to fix this issue is getting the Amazon Echo, which is a smart speaker that can be controlled by voice commands.
With an Echo, you could simply say, “Alexa, play YouTube TV” or “Alexa, change the channel to “Fox News,” and the Echo will take care of the rest.
You can also connect the Echo to the Fire TV Stick so that you can control it using voice commands as well (more on that below).
At the time of publishing, the Amazon Echo 5th Generation was available for $49.99 on Amazon and had over 17,000 reviews and 82% giving it 5 stars.
And if you want to purchase a Fire Stick as well, you can get the Fire TV Stick with Alexa voice remote on Amazon as well. At the time of publishing, this product was available on Amazon for $39.99 and had over 345,000 global reviews with 83% giving it 5 stars.
How do you use an Amazon Echo and Fire TV Stick with Alexa Voice Remote?
1) Plug the Fire TV Stick into an HDMI port on your TV and connect it to a power source. Follow the on-screen instructions to set up the Fire TV. Make sure that your TV is compatible with the Fire TV Stick
2) Connect the Echo to the same WiFi network as the Fire TV Stick. Be sure it is within range of your Fire TV stick
3) Be sure to connect the Echo and Fire TV Stick to the same WiFi network:
- Open the Alexa app on your smartphone or tablet > Settings > select your Echo device > select Wi-Fi.
- Follow the on-screen instructions to connect your Echo to the same Wi-Fi network as your Fire TV Stick.
4) Enable the Fire TV Stick skill in the Alexa app
Open the Alexa app, go to Skills & Games, search for “Fire TV,” and enable the Fire TV skill.
5) Link your Fire TV Stick to your Echo
- Open the Alexa app, go to Settings, select TV & Video, and then select Fire TV.
- Follow the on-screen instructions to link your Fire TV Stick to your Echo.
6) Use Alexa’s voice commands to control your TV:
You can use Alexa’s voice commands to control your TV including:
- “Alexa, play Breaking Bad on Netflix”
- “Alexa, pause”
- “Alexa, fast forward 5 minutes”
- “Alexa, turn off the TV.”
- You can also adjust the volume and change the channel using Alexa voice commands.
My pro tip: Put a piece of paper or a sticky note next to Alexa and Echo with the words you have established as keywords that Alexa or Echo need to hear to help your loved one
How to easily call a loved one
Jeff also mentioned that his wife has trouble remembering how to find his phone number to call him. Here are a few options your loved one can use to call you even if they have trouble finding your number:
1) Alexa contacts: You can put your contact information into Alexa. You can find the steps here.
2) Speed dial: Program your phone number into your loved one’s phone with a speed dial button, and be sure to set it as a “Favorite.” Again, writing this all down on a sticky note or a piece of paper that the person has easy access to will help them make a call should they forget how to use speed dial.
3) Smartwatch with cellular connectivity: Consider using a smartwatch with cellular connectivity that your loved one can wear, which would allow them to make phone calls directly from their wrist without having to find their phone.
One great option is the Apple Watch SE. This product was available at the time of publishing on Amazon for $184 with over 2,000 global reviews and 75% giving it 5 stars.
One of the amazing features of the Apple Watch is that it can allow your loved one to make a call simply by lifting their wrist and speaking directly into their Apple watch.
First, ensure that their Apple Watch is connected to their iPhone. To do this, make sure that Bluetooth is turned ON both on their iPhone, and their Apple Watch follow these steps:
- On their iPhone, go to Settings
- Scroll down and tap Bluetooth and make sure it’s turned ON
- On their Apple Watch, swipe up from the watch face to access the Control Center and check that the Bluetooth icon is highlighted. You will be able to tell if their iPhone is connected to their Apple Watch if the tiny icon is green.
- Then, on their Apple watch, press the digital crown (on the right side of the watch) to go to the home screen
- Tap on the settings icon, which looks like a sprocket
- Scroll down and tap on Siri
- Scroll down and enable Raise to Speak by toggling right, so it turns green. Now, this will allow your loved one to simply lift their wrist and speak to Siri without having to press any buttons.
Fall detection can help when no one is around
I also recommend you turn on Fall Detection on your loved one’s Apple Watch because, according to the World Health Organization, an estimated 646,000 fatal falls occur each year, with older adults (65 years and over) being the most affected group. This is especially concerning if the person has memory issues. You can turn on Fall Detection by doing the following:
- Open the Settings app on your Apple Watch
- Scroll down to SOS and tap it
- Tap Fall Detection and it will take you to the next screen where you can toggle ON (you know it’s on when it turns green)
- Then chose Always On or Only on during workouts by tapping your selection
A second watch option is the Samsung Galaxy Watch 5. At the time of publishing, this product was available on Amazon for $279.99 and had over 300 reviews with 82% giving it 5 stars. This watch also makes calling easy for a loved one with memory issues.
- To set up Google Assistant for them, go to the Google Play Store and download the Google Assistant app
- Open the Google Assistant app and sign in to their Google account. If they don’t have a google account, you will have to sign them up for one
- Follow the prompts to set up your loved one’s Assistant, including granting permissions to access their device’s microphone and other settings.
- To turn on voice commands, say “Hey Google” or “OK Google” to activate the Assistant. You can also tap the microphone icon on the Assistant app or on their device’s home screen
- Once you have set up your Assistant and voice commands, they can begin asking it to do a variety of tasks, such as playing music, setting reminders, making phone calls, and more
Note: Some devices may have different steps to set up Google Assistant and turn on voice commands. Consult their device’s user manual or online documentation for specific instructions.
4) Neclack call button: Consider getting a monitoring call button with a wireless pager that your loved one can press if they need to. The call button can be hung around the neck of the person who needs it with a neck strap or worn on a necklace like a pendant. It’s important that you teach them how the device works and what to do should they find themselves in an emergency situation. At the time of publishing, the CallToU Wireless Caregiver Pager was available on Amazon for $43.99 and had over 4,900 global reviews with 77% giving it 5 stars.
5) SOS emergency calling: Some smartphones have a feature called “SOS emergency calling” that allows them to quickly call for help in an emergency. You could set this up on your loved one’s phone so that they can call you easily if they need to.
- To use SOS emergency calling, show your loved one how to hold down the buttons on the right side of their phone and the volume buttons on the left side of their smartphone at the same time.
- Then they will see the Emergency Call option (third option down from the top) pop up on their phone.
- To activate it, they will need to swipe right and it will dial 911. (You may need to specify an emergency service to dial)
Note to add yourself as an emergency contact, follow these steps:
- Go to Settings
- Scroll down to Emergency SOS and tap it
- Scroll down to Edit Emergency Contacts in Health and tap it
- Scroll down to Emergency contacts and add your contact information
6) Picture buttons: Consider purchasing a phone like the Future Call FC-0613 Picture Phone for Seniors, where a speed dial is associated with a picture. It’s important to determine who your loved one would call in an emergency in order of importance. Add their photo and set up the phone accordingly. Keep in mind that the person may not recognize the pictures at some point. My recommendation would be to place a sticky note next to the phone with the words, “In an emergency, press the red button for 911“, or “In an emergency, press the number 1 to contact me.”
At the time of publishing, the Call FC-0613 Picture Phone for Seniors was available on Amazon for $44.99 and had over 1,900 reviews with 59% giving it 5 stars.
Our favorite tracker is the Apple AirTag. Its simple one-tap setup instantly connects AirTag with your iPhone or iPad. It has precision finding with ultra-wideband technology that leads you right to your nearby AirTag. You can use it with your loved one by keeping it in a personal belonging of theirs like a bag or jacket or attach it to a strap and tie it around a device they regularly use, such as a walker or wheelchair. Note that the tracker does have a safety precaution telling the individual that they are being tracked, which is a small price to pay to be able to use it.
At the time of publishing, this product was available on Amazon for $29 and had over 100,000 global reviews with 84% giving it 5 stars.
Other important tips for finding/searching for items or people:
If you hang out a lot with a trusted friend or family member, do the following NOW in case you lose the iPhone later. Adding in your details into your trusted friend or family member in advance will be a lifesaver
For non-Apple users, consider purchasing the CUBE GPS Tracker, which uses GPS, WiFi, cell tower triangulation, and Bluetooth to give you the most precise and efficient location information. You can use it with your loved one by keeping it in a personal belonging of theirs like a bag or jacket or attach it to a strap and tie it around a device they regularly use, such as a walker or wheelchair. This can come in handy when it comes to keeping track of your loved one’s whereabouts so that you can have better peace of mind.
At the time of publishing, this product was available on Amazon for $19.95 and had nearly 500 reviews with 51% giving it 5 stars.
It’s important to note that the suggestions we gave above are just suggestions, and everybody’s needs differ. These are just some ways we have come up with to help a loved one with memory issues. If you have a loved one with Alzheimer’s or another memory health issue and have any more tips we may have missed, please let us know.
- Prevent phone scams against the elderly
- How to set up Alexa for emergencies
- Here’s how to use Apple’s new Emergency SOS feature
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