Thursday, March 31, 2016

Caregiver Aids #19: Handsfree Smartphone

I did a caregiver aid entry (#15) for a panic pendant, which Skip had for a number of years. I canceled it some months back for 2 reasons. First, I doubted Skip would be able to press the big button on the pendant hard enough to trigger a call out for help. Second, they raised their monthly monitoring fee without giving us any warning, which is just terrible customer service.

So I needed to find an alternative for her to use in an emergency. But while I was at it, she also could use a tool that would allow her to make calls, send text messages and control other devices, such as the tv (since the remote is very, very difficult for her to use).

I thought a smartphone was a no-brainer for all of this. I wasn't sure which phones really had handsfree operation, so I thought we could benefit from someone with more technical knowledge. I called Easter Seals to see if they had someone who could help us identify Skip's requirements and find a tool or tools to meet them. They sent someone out who decided that Skip's computer was the best way to go, even though I disagreed, since she wouldn't be able to use it when she was lying in bed. Nonetheless, he tried out a head mouse, which allows you to move your mouse around the screen with head movements, which Skip didn't like. He tried out Dragon Naturally Speaking with a microphone, which Skip had trouble with. She'd do all right with the commands when he was here for training and then they'd drop out of her brain after he left. D'oh!it l

It looked like the research for the handsfree phone was back in my court. I use a Motorola Droid Mini (I love its small size) which does have handsfree capabilities. I can wake it up merely by stating "OK Google" and then give it commands. I can make calls, send texts and find out how old Sophia Loren is (81, if you were wondering). So, I thought all Motorola phones had this capability. Nope. Only Droids and the Moto X. I found this out after buying an inexpensive Motorola phone for Skip. Again, d'oh!

I got her a Moto X. It's a big phone, but that is a benefit for her so she could see the screen if it was mounted on a stalk attached to her wheelchair or hospital bed rail. We trained it to recognize her voice (and her lovely Boston accent) so she could wake it up and give it commands. She did get the hang of it. So she could use it to send texts to me and friends, etc.

Right now, though, she's not using it. I'm not sure what we need to do to motivate her to use it enough so she is comfortable with its features and takes advantage of them. After all, it's only a matter of time before more and more apps are added or improved that will allow her to control more through the phone -- such as the cable box, which will give it even more utility for her.

Yesterday, I saw a cute ad on tv with Cookie Monster advertising that the iPhone 6S has handsfree capabilities. Before, you could use Siri in handsfree mode, but first you needed to wake up the phone with your hand to do so or it had to be plugged in (I guess listening for "Hey Siri" used up a lot of battery). For that reason, I didn't consider an iPhone when looking at possible smartphones to get Skip. Looks like that may have changed for those trying to figure out what's possible today.

I'm getting out the Moto X and charging it back up for Skip to practice on and use. We're going to Atlantic City in 3 weeks and she'll need to have a device to reach me when she's in the hotel room alone at night. She goes to bed early (can you say 8?) and I'll be up for hours more being a degenerate gambler in the casino. I want her to have a way to reach me should an emergency arise.

In summary, today, your options for handsfree smartphones are: Motorola Droids, Moto X and iPhone 6S. This list will only grow longer, I am sure. I do see the smartphone as a great tool for Skip, and she claims to as well, we just have a few hurdles to get over first.

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