One of the main challenges is keeping in touch, especially for long-distance situation. Plus I learned in my support group something really interesting: if you want a person with Alzheimer’s to remember what you tell them, look at them in the eyes while you talk, this will enhance the odds of “stickyness” of the conversation.

With in mind here are a few items to consider using when communicating when not in person. Personally I phone on a landline before videoconferencing and I guide my mom to accept my incoming video call. From there I get to talk to her visually and enhance the odds of retention, plus she can say hi to our dog.

  1. Video conferencing: this is a good way to get valuable facetime, and is fairly easy to get going. Depending of the stage the person is at choose accordingly as introducing new tools and habits will prove difficult. Suggested tools:
    • Computers: if they still surf the web and check email, just add a webcam with built-in microphone (Logitech is the way to go imho) and speakers and you’re all set. Expect this to be a short-lived solution though.
    • iPad/Tablet: regardless of which, these devices are more intuitive than computers so if they are already using them things should be ok for a while. My mom never got the hang of these as she never was interested in tech but she still plays solitaire on hers.
    • Smart screen/speakers: look at the Echo Show series at Amazon (see matrix below) and the Google Nest Hub product line. Personally I installed the Echo Show as it uses Skype and that what was my mom was using for years (and if I was able to re-do this I’d get a Show 10 as it has the ZigBee hub built-in look at the green rectangles in the picture below). Also, the Google offering at the time of writing this is more expensive as the Hub Max has a camera, while the Nest Hub does not making video conferencing.. a moot point. One feature I discovered one I had  in the Echo unit is the “drop in” mode which enables you to use the device to “spy” so be mindful of privacy should you use that.
      Here is the comparative of all Amazon devices:

      For those who are thinking of Facebook’s, don’t, the product line was discontinued in 2022, might as well not invest in the past.
    • Smartphones: hit & miss most likely, the smaller screens may be harder to navigate and use. Plus it’s not as fun as on a big screen, no?
    • For all of these, you can make and receive calls with your voice assistant, just read the next section below.
  2. Smart Speakers with voice assistants: Yes you can dial out from saying “Alexa” or “Hey Google”, but not to emergency services (read the page in this site here). Basically someone can say “Alexa call Billy” or “Hey Google call Susan” and boom, a phone call happens, you can also receive and answer calls. Guides for the usual suspects:
    1. Setting up Alexa for calls and general communications
    2. Setting up Google Home for calls
    3. Setting up Siri on HomePod
  3. Plain Old Telephones: everybody from the generation affected by Alzheimer’s has grown up and seen multiple generations of the venerable corded handset. Now when the person can no longer dial or speed dial in the “old fashioned way”. there are phone units out there with “big programmable buttons” and we got one for my dad (severe cranial trauma) and it works for him.. most of the time. It’s as good as it gets and I printed pictures of a few key relatives so when we wants to call them he presses the picture, no more dialing and it is programmed to speed dial. The one we chose is the Photo Dial by Smpl.
  4. A television: if you have a device like an Amazon Fire or Google Chromecast with Google TV, you can put a webcam and turn this setup into a video conferencing device! With Amazon Fire devices the main communication tools seem to be Skype and Zoom, make sure you have the proper apps installed and if one is not “officially” supported on your device like Skype on Fire Stick, try it anyway, With Google it’s Google Meet, just install the app.  For both you will need a compatible webcam with a built-in microphone and try to get one which is at least 1080P in camera resolution to ensure clarity, pixels are not sexy.  Now this can be used by an Alzheimer’s patient or remote folks, and this way you can sit the whole family at the same time on the couch to chat. Pretty neat!
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