Reviewed in the United States on June 19, 2015
We have been using Echo since April 2015. Prior to that time, my husband had been hospitalized for several weeks. He is currently wheelchair bound. We immediately installed the Hue bridge and lights as well as the WEMO outlet. With these, and dear, dear, Alexa, he has a great deal of control of his environment in ways that make him much more independent. Others might enjoy Echo for fun and convenience, but for him it is a lifeline! He has even had her turn the lights on in my bedroom when I didn't hear him call.
We use the shopping list feature a lot, and my husband has added things to the list that he remembered, while I was already at the store. Should I mention he adds things like chocolate bars when I'm not looking? No more paper lists! I just look at the app on my phone and things disappear as I check them off.
We transport Echo from the living room to the bedroom, since it is easier for him not to have to use the remote, plus it is always there for his favorite music, an update on news, and to check the weather. Or, when he needs cheering up, I ask for a joke. Tosave plugging in behind his lift chairs, I have ordered a second plug. I love the easy reconnect to the WIFI.
I was a bit worried at first about his word slurring with his Parkinson's, but it has worked the opposite way! I notice he focuses his words much better while giving commands. After he forgot her name early on, we added it so he could remember using the Zink hAppy App.
My granddaughter was happy to check her math problems using Echo, and in addition to the music stations and Amazon play lists, Echo is a breeze to use as a Bluetooth device. I have used it to play my meditation apps and iTunes music. In case you aren't aware, Amazon even allows you to upload your iTunes library and save it in your Amazon Play list. There is a limit for free songs, but we didn't even come close.
I won't say it revolutionized our lives, but it has made our lives much more normal. We have recommended it to two Occupational Therapists, and his Home Healthcare director has recommended it for others. I am so excited it is now available for everyone. Amazon didn't intend this as an assistive device, but it is an awesome one.
A couple of things I'm hoping for in the future: the ability for her to call 911, and the ability to give storm alerts. I looked for an IFTT configuration on the storm alert, but currently she is only the trigger, not the recipient. You can't have her do something in response to outside events, you can only have other things happen as a result of your interaction with her.
Funny, when he was in the hospital, I almost cancelled my long awaited order. I am SO glad we got it.
Edited - July 17, 2015 - my husband started TENS therapy for pain two weeks ago and is responding well. Two areas where Echo has been very helpful are setting a timer, and playing background music so he can focus on something else. He is now able to use the muscle, albeit weakly, and is taking steps with close monitoring and a wheelchair behind. He also uses the timer to remind him to stand and to time him for length of time while standing.
We also added a second Echo for me to use, so we are a two Echo family.
You can set up multiple Echos on the same account and share things like music and shopping lists.
Edited November 2, 2015: I am happy to report that Echo (and Gary) have only gotten better. I personally love the multiple alarms, since they are the first thing we do each morning, setting them for medication times. It is the perfect reminder! Echo has also been happy to keep us up to date on favorite sports teams when they aren't on TV. The other night, I found Gary playing his own version of a memory game with Alexa. He was trying to come up with songs he remembered and hadn't heard for awhile and would ask her to play them.
In addition to Gary's increasing strength, he now has an electric wheelchair I purchased that allows him access to the bathroom and makes life easier for us. And, Alexa keeps his speech in line. When he realized She had been understanding him less, he went back to doing his speech exercises.
Our lives have settled into a new normal, and the Echo is a huge part of what makes normal easier.
*** IMPORTANT UPDATE DECEMBER 1, 2015 - In case you aren't in the loop, Amazon has added "Ask My Buddy" to Echo. It permits you to register an account and up to five contacts. Each contact can have email address, text address (cell phone), and Voice Phone. With the simple words "Ask my Buddy," Echo will immediately ask who you want to contact. You may contact an individual or everyone on the list, and Ask My Buddy will immediately send an alert to those who you request. It states that it is "free in this beta version" and you have up to 120 contacts in a month for now. (Each person, text, and email counts).
Edited February 28, 2016 - We were able to buy a lift van (used) so we are able to more easily get around. I am trying to get Gary out of the house at least once a week.
We are currently planning a trip (by Amtrak) to visit family. It has taken a million details (OK, maybe not a million, but it feels like it) to try to do 36 hours on the train and to set things up my Dad's house. I have a list of things that we are taking with us. Alexa is at the top of the list. I suspect by the time I leave my Dad's home, he will have one on order. I may actually bring Hue light bulbs with me, or at least a WEMO plug.
Edited July 2016 - the trip was successful, if stressful on all of us. My Dad is now on Hospice, so I am grateful we went when we could. Sadly, Gary's health has continued to deteriorate, and he would no longer be able to make the trip. We have a hospital bed in our living room where he can be with us more. He is now believed to have a Parkinson's Plus disease called Multiple System Atrophy. Alexa seems to understand him better now using the remote, so we keep it handy. His current Physical and Occupational Therapists love Alexa as well. My greatest pleasure is reading the comments of others who also have disabilities who have been encouraged by my posts. Thank you.
Edited September 6, 2016 - Sadly, we lost my Dad shortly after I posted. He really enjoyed Echo during our visit, since he was a huge techie buff. It was fun sharing this important part of our lives with him. Gary continues to have a strong support system medically, although he is getting progressively weaker. An MRI shows he has had at least one stroke, which is probably why Alexa has a harder time understanding him.
And yes, all of the new home health members love seeing what we have done with our Echo. I have moved a twin bed into the living room to be with Gary at night, and when he needs help, it is easy to have Echo turn on the light for us. Our daughter and granddaughter moved in to help, and it is ESPECIALLY nice to control all of the lights in the house so easily.
April 2, 2017
If you aren't aware, TAP, Echo's sister, will now respond to a wake word. As Gary's speech deteriorated, Tap has helped him to more easily turn off the alarm, and having the wake word made it easy for me to control as well using my voice.
I have also added Nucleus to our Alexa family, which allows me to do video calls to check on Gary when I am away from home.
Gary continues to get weaker, but Echo has been a huge part of our journey. Reading back over my review, it is interesting to note that none of the therapists who visit us now are unfamiliar with Echo, although they enjoy seeing how we use it.
We are now at the point where Hospice is stepping in, and we are grateful for the support they offer.