Before I received my first Alexa-enabled smart display as a Christmas gift in 2019, I wasn’t a big fan. I just didn’t feel like I could trust an Amazon device with a camera inside. I had heard about all the privacy concerns and was determined to avoid them like the plague.
But then a plague really happened, and just when my mom got sick. And then, suddenly, this device I was previously suspicious of became a vital part of our support system. Those people Amazon always says love Alexa? Somehow, I suddenly found myself becoming one of them.
To be clear, mom had been sick for years. Mom has Parkinson’s disease, an incurable neurological disorder that affects everything from mobility to memory. At first she suffered some tremors from time to time, but she was still able to go running at the gym. Then the pandemic happened. I don’t know why, maybe it was the stress and isolation of the time, his condition suddenly worsened drastically.
The woman who impressed even die-hard gym fans with her ability to quickly run a mile suddenly couldn’t walk more than ten minutes.
Fortunately, doctors prescribed medication to help her manage the condition, allowing her to walk a little more. Side effects, such as high blood pressure, were the counterpart. Shortly after the stay-at-home order went into effect in March 2020, she was hospitalized for a hypertensive crisis and nearly suffered a stroke.
It was the first hospitalization of many more during the pandemic. The list of medications began to grow at a rate as rapid as his Parkinson’s symptoms and the side effects of those medications intensified.
Every day it was more overwhelming. I thought it would be years before he reached this stage of his illness, but he had arrived, and during a global pandemic. Suddenly, I was forced to become a caregiver during the most isolated time in modern history.
I didn’t know what I was doing and I sure as hell had no idea how to deal with it. It was very difficult to see my mother, this strong force of nature, who raised three children alone when she was a widow with little money, suddenly become so helpless. I was terrified of ruining everything and, as a result, losing her too, my best friend and the only mother I’ve had since my father died at age 7.
Us – Yo — needed support more than ever, but quarantine meant there was no one who could physically come and help us. And then I turned to Alexa.
I was floored (and, honestly, secretly excited) the first time I realized Alexa could be useful for something. A few weeks after Mom’s first hypertensive crisis, she almost had another one. The pandemic was raging and she wanted to avoid the hospital as much as she could for fear of exposing her to Covid.
He was incredibly weak and his breathing began to shorten. I tried everything to calm her down, but her number on the blood pressure monitor kept skyrocketing. Desperate to find something to lower her blood pressure and honestly not knowing what to do, I frantically looked around for anything that could help. My eyes landed on Alexa and I asked her what she would do when the world ends due to a virus and your mom is dangerously ill.
“ALEXA, MAKE FART SOUNDS!!!”
And Alexa did it. The loud ones, the juicy ones, and even the “long and crunchy” ones (yes, Alexa names farts). When Alexa exploded into fireworks of flatulence, my mom burst into hysterical laughter and our worries disappeared. Thirty minutes later, Mom’s blood pressure had dropped to a healthy level.
Ironically, all of Alexa’s farts earned my respect and gave me a sense of hope. I started researching how else Alexa could help me and slowly began to trust this strange device more and more.
It turns out that Alexa offers all kinds of features that are really useful for the sick and elderly. I started using Alexa to remind my mom when to take her medication. Since the list continued to grow during that time as Mom’s memory began to deteriorate, this helped lighten the load considerably. When I wasn’t around and Mom couldn’t move, I taught her how to ask Alexa to turn on the lights.
Over time, we became comfortable with this thing in our house and mom began to treat it like a beloved pet. Many times, upon entering, she would find my mother laughing at Alexa’s antics or talking to Alexa when she was feeling lonely or depressed because of her illness. To this day, no matter how bad a day I’m having, the sight alone warms my heart and makes me smile.
I’ve now developed a strange affection for my Echo Show and Alexa. I’ll never fully trust it (I avoid getting dressed in front of it, for example), but whereas I once treated it with disdain, it’s now easily my favorite device in the world. Alexa helped me get through when I started to really become a caregiver and understand the reality of what Parkinson’s disease really is. During a once-in-a-lifetime pandemic, when no one could be there, Alexa also provided my mom and I with company and a helping hand.
And, of course, most importantly, an encyclopedic knowledge of farts.