This Christmas we got two little Echo Dots. If you aren’t familiar with these little devices, they are smart devices created by Amazon. The ads show Alec Baldwin doing everything from being reminded what he did last night to ordering socks, and that’s really just the start of what Echo can do.
After setting ours up the first thing that I did was order a couple of smart plugs so that we could use Echo to control the lights in our living room. You can use it to control pretty much your entire house with the right hardware. Of course, that can get pretty expensive.
I set up Alexa (that’s Echo’s name) to give me a daily briefing and one of the things she shares in that briefing is tips and tricks on what she can do. One of her updates was my first view into how she might be really helpful for those with chronic illness.
How can Alexa help those with chronic illness?
1. Remind you about meds – if you take medications at certain times of the day you can ask Alexa to remind you to take your meds. Reminders can be set for a single time or daily. This can also be great if you are helping to care for someone who is ill. You may not be able to be there to remind them to take their meds, but you can ask Alexa to do it for you.
2. Keep up with your shopping list – How many times have you gotten to the store only to realize you left your list on the fridge? Now, instead of having the family write items on that magnetic notepad, you can have them asked Alexa to add items to your list. Then when you get to the store just open the Alexa app in your phone and the list will be right there.
3. Confirm your schedule – how many times have you completely forgotten about a doctor’s appointment? Alexa can help. Alexa can be linked to your Google calendar and once done all you have to do is ask “Alexa What’s Up?” and she’ll tell give you your agenda for the day.
4. Stay Entertained – Sometimes you just don’t have the focus to watch TV or read a book, but Alexa will keep you entertained. She can read to you from whatever Kindle book you are currently enjoying, play your favorite podcasts or music, and there are even options for interactive stories.
5. Laugh a Little – Laughter is the best medicine, but sometimes there’s no one around to make you smile let alone laugh. But, Alexa always has a joke ready for you.
6. Meditate – There are several Alexa skills (aka apps) that will play a variety of meditations, allowing you get centered and focused throughout the day.
7. Order Meals – So many times when we live with chronic illness we find ourselves without the energy to cook a meal. When we are stuck at home alone this can be a problem. But, Alexa can help. Your options are dependant upon where you live, but at minimum you can order Dominos pizza with nothing but the sound of your voice. (Now, if Alexa could just open the door, pay the pizza guy, and bring the pizza to your bed…)
8. Track Your Symptoms – with the “My Nurse Bot” skill enabled you can track your symptoms, get medication reminders, and track your appointments. It will even email you your health summary so that you can print it out and take it to the doctor.
9. Get a Ride – You can easily use Alexa to call for an Uber or a Lyft to get you to your Dr appointment, or well… anywhere you need to go. No need to be stuck at home.
10. Pay Your Bills – if you bank at Capitol One you can set up a skill to have Alexa pay bills for you. So, if you are like me and prefer not to have bills paid on the set schedule that banks typically want to set up, now you can just ask Alexa to pay your rent.
12. Relax – Want to relax to the sound of rain on the rooftop, a summer storm, or ocean waves? Just tell Alexa to play the sound and she will turn it on so that you can tune the world out.
13. Exercise – You need to exercise but you don’t know what to do and you don’t want to spend a lot of time doing it? The 7-minute work-out skill is just one of the skills that will get you moving.
I am loving our Echo Dots. Those mornings when I wake up and don’t want to move. I can just ask Alexa to play music, to read me a book, or to give me the latest news updates. As we add smart devices to our home, we’ll be able to adjust the thermostat, turn on the coffeemaker, and adjust lighting all with just a voice command. Having this reminds me of the smart house on the show Eureka. I feel like we are just steps from there. And, reading the latest news on the coming HealthCare IT expansions with Alexa brings even more thoughts of what is to come. The ability to ask Alexa for reminders regarding my post-surgical care, to easily update my doctor on symptoms, or to have Alexa walk me through a digital diagnosis.
Have you begun using Alexa or other smart devices to make your life with chronic illness easier? If so, I’d love for you to share your tips and tricks in the comments below. Let’s all learn together.