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New Alexa features make it easier to check in on older loved ones

Travel has essentially come to a halt this holiday season. The pandemic has taken a swift upward trajectory over the last month, and many states are starting to restrict travel or gatherings again.

These restrictions are going to cause issues with visiting extended family this year. Many of us have already been keeping a distance from elderly relatives or family members with health conditions due to the pandemic. You can still use tech to check in on your older family members, though — even if you can’t be there in person.

But now Amazon is making it even easier to check-in. It just announced a new feature for Alexa-enabled devices that can help you stay in touch with elderly family members without putting them at risk. Let’s take a look at how it works and what it can do for your family.

Checking in with your loved ones via Amazon Care Hub

Does your loved one have an Alexa-enabled device in their home? Amazon just announced new features are rolling out to make Alexa devices more geared toward elderly adults.

These new features are part of the Care Hub, a new option on the Alexa mobile app. Care Hub is meant to help family members keep an eye on aging loved ones without putting them at risk of contracting COVID-19 with face-to-face interactions.

COVID-19 can be extremely detrimental to older people, and with cases skyrocketing nationwide, it’s important to continue to maintain a safe distance from those who are high risk. That’s what Care Hub does. It allows you to monitor activities that involve Alexa and even be alerted if your loved one needs help from afar.

Here’s how it works. If your loved one permits you to monitor their activity, you’ll be able to see a log of actions that occurred while they were interacting with Alexa.

For example, you can see in the Alexa app that your loved one was playing music via a playlist, but you won’t be given information on what the music was. The activity information will be listed by category instead.

Those activity logs will help you verify that your loved one is up and about in their home — which can help reassure you that they’re well while maintaining independence. You can also configure alerts to be sent if there’s no activity or even let you know when the first interaction with Alexa occurs each day.

Or, if there’s an emergency and your loved one calls for help, anyone who’s been designated as the emergency contact will be able to check on them through the Care Hub drop-in feature. You’ll also be able to contact emergency services if necessary.

You can’t just log in and decide to monitor someone else’s account activity, however. The person being monitored has to permit for that to happen — and you’ll have to opt-in, too.

Information being passed back and forth is limited, too. You won’t get details. You’ll get a list of basic activities that were logged, like “played music” or “smart home,” with the times the activity occurred.

Your loved one can control what activity is displayed in the Care Hub by deleting their voice recordings in Alexa Privacy Settings or the Alexa app at any time. They can also easily delete by voice by saying, “Alexa, delete what I just said,” or “Alexa, delete everything I said today.”

In other words, you’ll be able to see how they’re doing, not what they’re doing. Giving your loved one the autonomy they deserve while giving you the peace of mind that you need.

Related: Caring for an aging relative? Guide to tech that can help

Getting started with Care Hub

Want to get started with Care Hub? You’ll both need an Amazon Echo device to make this work. If you’re not on the Echo bandwagon yet, there are tons of good options out there.

If you’re looking for an entry-level Echo, the Echo Dot is a solid option. It offers everything you’d need to set up a Care Hub connection on both ends. If you’d prefer something with a smart display — which allows you to make video calls between devices — the Echo Show 5 may be a better fit. It’s a little pricier, but it offers tons of extras, too.

You’ll also both need to set up an account in the Care Hub. If you’re already Care Hub customer, you can just sign in to the Care Hub dashboard.

To set up Care Hub:

  1. Go to Amazon’s Care Hub homepage or the Care Hub section in the Alexa app and click Get Started.
  2. Alexa will ask whether you want to provide or receive support — if you’re the caregiver, you want to provide support.
  3. This will give you a setup invitation link to send to your relative.
    • Contact them beforehand and let them know it’s coming. You may also want to tell them to follow the instructions.
    • They will be asked to sign in with their Amazon account.
    • They will also need to create a profile in Care Hub.
  4. When they’re done, you’ll receive an invitation email from your loved one at the email address associated with your Amazon account.
  5. Click the “Get Started” link in that email. That should activate your account

When the invite is accepted on both ends, it will forge a connection between your Alexa accounts. The connection will be confirmed via text or email message. You can then set up alerts, customize your account, or monitor when necessary.

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