Using Alexa to support carers throughout the pandemic

Guest Post from Aidan Finney at Carers Leeds who shares Monica’s story:

We received several Amazon Echo Show’s from 100% Digital Leeds at the start of the pandemic which we were keen to get out to support Carers in isolation. Through working in partnership with 100% Digital Leeds on the NHS Widening Participation Dementia Pathfinder we had seen the benefits of voice technology for Carers especially supporting with self-management and mental wellbeing.

During the pandemic Monica was referred to Carers Leeds.

Monica told me about her caring situation, she cares for her mother who has a diagnosis of lewy body dementia and psychosis. Monica lives a number of miles away from her mother at the other side of Leeds, she has often needed to drive across to check on her mother when she was in crisis. She has found this a challenging aspect of her caring role balancing her own life and work and driving across Leeds on a regular basis.

When COVID-19 hit this wasn’t something Monica could do as easily and she became extremely anxious about how she would be able to care for her mother and stay in contact through the pandemic. At Carers Leeds we suggested she trial one of the Amazon Echo Show’s from 100% Digital Leeds, which would give her the opportunity to communicate with her mother while she couldn’t drive over to see her.

We set up the Alexa for Monica’s mother, Monica downloaded the Alexa app on her phone which connects to her mother’s device and we talked her through how to use it.

As a result of this, over the past two months through lockdown Monica has been able to link her phone to her mother’s Alexa via the ‘check in’ option and they have been able to see each other on the screen and chat to each other.

Monica has been so reassured by seeing her mother over the video call and her mother is able to be reassured through seeing her daughter and speaking to her through the device. This has given both Monica and her mother peace of mind as they can quickly see each other when needed rather than having to wait for Monica to be available to drive over for support each time her mother is in need.

During the current situation with the pandemic this has been invaluable and has supported both of them to develop their digital skills, increasing their confidence in using the devices and seeing the real benefits of using them.

Monica explained:

My mother has really enjoyed listening to her favourite songs on the Alexa and interacting with it for the social aspect in isolation, she finds this therapeutic. It boosts her mental wellbeing by having a nice atmosphere of music in the home and it puts my mind at ease knowing she’s not as down or feeling as low. It’s amazing that we can now have video calls I can’t describe how special it is.”

We’ve found music is often a really great way for people living with Dementia to enjoy reminiscing about times they can remember from their past and it’s a great tool to help with relaxation and relieve agitation.

This has been the case for Monica’s mother and changed her situation dramatically compared to how she was feeling at the start of the pandemic. Monica can’t imagine life without using the Alexa now, and feels calmer and happier knowing she can have that contact with her mother whenever she wants, she is thrilled it has really boosted her mother’s mental wellbeing and her own.

Thank you 100% Digital Leeds for giving Monica and other Carers through Carers Leeds the opportunity to use these devices which are making such an incredible difference to people’s lives especially in the current situation.