The Amazon Echo really could be life changing


That sounds like a bit of an exaggeration doesn’t it?  We often refer to things as being life changing.  Take our coffee machine for instance.  Every morning when we grind the beans and then make that perfect coffee we mutter “life saver, thanks” or feel that mug of steaming hot caffeine has just changed our life.   Knowing that deep down this isn’t really the case but right then, at that exact point in time, it feels like it has.

Take the Amazon Echo, affectionately known as Alexa.   Changing the way we live by connecting to  various devices in our home it changing how we live.  How we can get our news delivered, turn off our lights, set the Roomba to vacuum when we are out, the list increases every day.   A simple command of “Alexa give me the headlines” or “Alexa play the soundtrack to the Greatest Showman” never ceases to amaze me.  To make me smile and shake my head in a “that is so clever” kind of way.   Recently though I have seen a much bigger picture with the Amazon Echo, one that really shows how life changing this piece of technology really can be.

Rewinding 2018 a few months my beloved father in law, Jim, Hopalong (as he signed off his comments on every blog post), had a devastating stroke.   He had one just over six years ago but with intensive physio he was able to still get about as only one side of his body was paralysed.  Thankfully his left side, meaning he could still write letters, research family trees, have a cup of coffee, get dressed, using his right hand.   He could still shuffle about, slowly and with the aid of a stick, but he was able to go to meetings at his beloved hockey club, or come to us for Christmas.   Yes it was a huge change and the demands on Pat, my mother in law, became enormous as she had to ensure all his needs were met, but it was doable.

Not so this time.

This stroke took all of Jim’s remaining physical faculties and it has left him paralysed from the neck down.  He can no longer move unaided, he can’t sit up without the support of cushions, and only then for an hour having been moved from his bed to the special wheelchair using a hoist (and two carers).  He can’t feed himself, scratch an itch, hold a pen, drink a coffee, blow his nose.   Whilst his mind is still as active as it ever was, his body has finally let  him down.

To understand how devastating that must be is virtually impossible.  To go from being a fiercely independent man to totally dependent on your wife or carers for the most basic, and personal, of tasks is not something any of us really want to face.

So all we can do is try and find ways to allow him to feel in some way that he still has control over some things, that he can do things independently, which means we are looking at voice activation.  He still has his voice, so voice activated and controlled devices are now the way forward for Jim and we have been exploring all the possibilities.    Which is where the Amazon Echo has come in.

Jim comes home next week as the care package is finally confirmed, the equipment he needs has been ordered and we are now getting his new bedroom in the converted sitting room converted to meet his needs.

Installing Phillips Hue lightbulbs in his bedside light, for instance, means he can now say “Alexa, turn off the light” and it is done.

“Alexa, give me the headlines” means that not only can Jim hear them but with the Echo Show he can watch a bulletin too.   The Echo Show will also allow Jim to watch films and TV programmes via Amazon Video.  So he can binge the Grand Tour or QI just by asking Alexa to watch those shows.

It even allows Jim to add things to a shopping list so if he really fancies Eccles cakes later in the week, he can add those to the shopping list.

Jim will be able to call us thanks to “Alexa Calling” because we also have a device (it syncs with your phone contacts in your mobile when you set it up).  Thanks to the Echo Show we could also do video calling too.

The new TV we have bought is a Sony Bravia which has built in Amazon Echo connectivity so Jim can ask Alexa to turn it off and on, to find Match of the Day or an episode of Dad’s Army.

With an Echo Dot in her bedroom, or in the carer’s room Jim knows that he can call for help at 3am and he will be heard.    Giving everybody peace of mind.  We could even connect a camera to the devices to monitor Jim when he is asleep.   We can use our devices to “Drop In” and check up on Jim remotely

The possibilities for Jim with this technology really are endless.   Life changing in fact.


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