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4 ways Alexa can ease your grandparents' coronavirus quarantine

An Amazon Echo can add hands-free smarts and entertainment during a difficult time.

Josh Miller/CNET

An Amazon Echo is perfect for playful kids or busy young adults, but more and more features are specifically helpful for the elderly. Alexa can do everything from reminding people to take their blood pressure medication and connecting them via voice calling, to keeping the home temperature just right and keeping users atop the latest coronavirus news. An Amazon Echo also makes many everyday tasks hands-free, saving you and your elder relatives the trouble of too much physical labor, and keeping from spreading germs.

If you are thinking of getting an Echo for your grandparents, aging parents or other relatives in this time of quarantine and isolation, here are a few ways it can help make their lives a little easier. 

Read more: The best Alexa commands for exercise, better sleep and stress relief.

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Personal butler

An Amazon Echo can help you or any of your senior relatives who have conditions like arthritis, Parkinson's or impaired vision control home appliances without having to see or touch them directly.

You can create a routine that activates a series of commands just by saying a custom phrase. For example, saying, "Alexa, it's morning" could tell a Nest Learning Thermostat to turn up the temperature by 10 degrees, a Behmor Brewer to whip up a pot of coffee and Amazon Fire TV Stick to turn on your television, all simultaneously. You can even turn on the lights and open the smart shades. Of course, you'll have to buy those Alexa-compatible devices to make all of that happen.

To set up a routine, open the Alexa app on your phone, tap the three horizontal lines in the top left portion of the screen and pick "Routines." Then pick "Create Routine," then choose "When this Happens" to come up with a verbal prompt or a certain time to trigger a series of actions.

You can set this routine to happen every day, every week or every month. You can even set it to happen only once.

Digital and human companionship

In times when elders are alone or quarantined, a little companionship can go a long way. Though the Echo is just a machine, Amazon has tried to make Alexa feel close to human. You can get the day going by saying, "Alexa, start my morning" and it will give you a positive motivational message of the day. It's pretty elaborate and allows you to have a lot of back and forth interactivity with it.

If you're bored in the middle of the day with nothing to do, have Amazon Echo read your favorite book aloud. Just say, "Alexa, read The Catcher in the Rye," or whatever book you want to hear. You can pay to subscribe to Audible.com to access more than 100,000 stories in their catalog. Or you can go to the website of your local public library, where you can check out free audiobooks.

Want Amazon Echo to make you laugh? Just say, "Alexa, tell me some jokes."

If you want to connect to family or friends, Alexa can also help you make voice calls -- just like a landline phone -- or send voice messages.

Medication reminders

If you ever forget to take your medication, Amazon Echo has the answer.

Alexa can give you reminders to take your pills. If you have different pills to take a various times of the day, you can set a reminder for each pill. Just say, "Alexa, remind me to take my blood pressure pill at 8 a.m."

Security monitor

Alexa has several free ways to make your -- or your senior relative's -- home more secure.

The Burglar Deterrent skill is designed for use when you leave the house, but you can also use it when you're home alone.

This skill plays sound to make people on the other side of the door think someone, or something, is inside. Just say, "Alexa, Burglar Deterrent," and it will ask you to choose the ambient sound of a particular environment. Saying "party" will play music and simulate the sound of people talking while opening cans of soda. Sounds pretty realistic.

If you want a more robust security presence, use Alexa Guard, a feature that listens for signs of a break-in, like breaking glass or human footsteps while you're out. With Alexa, you can control all of those things from your home or anywhere in the world.

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