By: Frank Engelman | Posted: June 12, 2020 | Updated: April 27, 2023
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Are you looking for a way to setup video chats with your loved one who lives independently or in a facility?
This article tells you how to do that, using the Echo Show, without requiring your loved one to do any of the “setting up”.
New to This Topic?
This is a Deep-dive “How To” article. If you are not yet sure if the Echo Show is the right product for your situation, you probably want to start with one of these related pieces of research.
- Amazon Echo Show: Older Adults Explore; or
- Can Alexa Help Fight isolation and Loneliness; or
- Technology for Sheltering in Place; or
- Best Video Call Technology.
Setting the Stage: Common Questions
Let’s listen on in a conversation between two seniors: Bob, whose mother just moved into a nursing home, and Frank, who just completed an Alexa Calling setup for his Mom.
Alexa Calling for Staying in Touch with Mom
Bob: I have been reading that Amazon Alexa Calling is the easiest way for me to have video chats with my Mom, but I have no idea how to get started for her.
Frank: Amazon Alexa Calling is a great way to do video chats with your Mom. You can have a video call with her even if she is unable to say the proper Alexa command to answer the call or unable to tap the icon on the Amazon Echo Show screen. That is accomplished using the “drop-in” feature. Here are the various Echo Show sizes (fig 1).
Figure 1: Different versions of the Amazon Echo Show.
L-R: Echo Show 5; Echo Show 8; Echo Show (Gen 2).
But I Can’t Visit Mom to Set It Up
Bob: Great. I actually setup an Echo Show in my own home and have done video chats with other family members, but they each setup their own Echo Show… How can I setup one for my Mom, especially since she doesn’t live nearby?
Frank: Amazon recently offered some advice (Reference 1) on how to do that remotely.
I suggest you follow their advice and configure your Mom’s Echo Show at YOUR home, using YOUR Wi-Fi, then the only thing that will have to change at her home is the Wi-Fi.
Can’t Mom Just Use My Amazon Account?
Bob: Ok, but as I read their setup procedure, I see she would need her own Amazon account. Can’t she just use mine?
Frank: I recommend getting her a free Amazon account. That way all her preferences such as music and contacts are separate. You will still be able to log into her account when you are home to later make any changes necessary. In fact, if you keep an Echo device, say an Echo Dot, at your home logged into her account, you can remotely help her troubleshoot problems. And… you will be able to remote “push” family photos to her Echo Show as a slide show.
But She Doesn’t Have a Cell Phone. It Says She Needs One.
Bob: Hmm, they also mention using “her cell phone” to complete the setup. She does not have or want a cell phone and I don’t want to buy a “burner” just for this setup.
Frank: Not to worry. There is a way to do this using her Amazon account and a free Google Voice account, which creates a free mobile number that Amazon needs to complete the Alexa Calling setup. You can log into her Amazon account with YOUR cell phone to complete the setup, including Contacts. I’ll give you details later on how to perform this step by step.
I Don’t Want All MY Contacts in HER Alexa
Bob: Ok, I get it, but I read that if I use MY cell phone, that all my contacts be in there!
Frank: No, you can add the contacts your Mom needs one by one.
The Retirement Home Might Not Let Me Connect to Their WiFi
Bob: Oh, I forgot to mention that she is now in a nursing home. I know an Echo Show device needs Wi-Fi to work. What if they won’t allow it on their network?
Frank: Aha, there is a way around that using a paid cell service with what the carriers call a mobile hotspot.
Her TV is So Loud. She Will Not Hear the Call.
Bob: Oh, one more thing. She plays her TV very loud and I’m afraid she won’t be able to hear me calling her.
Frank: I have a fix for that! You also install a Fire TV Cube for her TV. If she is watching TV when your call comes in, it will actually pause the TV! (Reference 2). She will also have other benefits using the Fire TV Cube such as voice control of her TV shows and family pictures.
Do My Siblings Also Need an Echo Show to Video Chat with Mom?
Bob: Oh, one last thing. My brothers and sisters will also want to do video chats with Mom. Will they all need an Echo Show?
Frank: They can just use an Alexa app on their cell phone. They will be able to call Mom and she can even call them! If they have the Alexa app running when she calls, they will be asked to answer the call. If the Alexa app is not running at that time, they will get a regular cell phone call and can then call her right back in the Alexa app. One of the benefits of using an Echo Show is that it will show you when Mom is nearby her Echo Show and that might be a good time to call her.
OK. You Convinced Me. 🙂
Bob: Ok, OK… I’m convinced. Please give me all the step by step info you mentioned.
Frank: Of course. Here are some detailed setup instructions.
List of Equipment, Software, and Applications Required
Amazon Echo Show device for your home and your Mom’s home.
- Be sure to order hers as a “gift” so that Amazon does not pre-configure it for your settings.
- You could reset it to “Factory Default”, if you ordered it configured (see below).
Wi-Fi at both locations.
- Add a portable Wi-Fi hotspot, if Wi-Fi is not available if at your Mom’s location.
You need a mobile phone other than your own.
- If your Mom does not have one, see the Google Voice workaround below.
- Separate Amazon accounts for you and your parent.
- Alexa app on your mobile phone.
- Setup a Google account and a free Google Voice for your Mom — if she has no mobile phone.
Setup Instructions: Step by Step
1. Set up YOUR Echo Device
- Plug it in and wait for the prompts. (If you have previously ordered Amazon Echo devices, it may already have the steps below performed.)
- Select a language by tapping the screen.
- Select your Wi-Fi network name.
- Enter your Wi-Fi password.
- Enter your Amazon account email and password.
- Sign in.
- Confirm the time zone.
2. Set Up your MOM’s Echo Device
- Plug it in and wait for the prompts.
- If it was delivered with your settings, you can perform a Factory Default Reset (see below).
- Select a language by tapping the screen.
- Select YOUR Wi-Fi network name (this will be changed later).
- Enter YOUR Wi-Fi password and Tap CONNECT.
- Enter your MOM’s Amazon account email and password and Tap DONE.
- Sign in with your MOM’s account, tap CONTINUE.
- Set the correct time zone & address, tap CONTINUE.
- Choose a room location or skip.
- Rename the device to your preference, e.g. Mom’s Echo Show.
- Choose some wallpaper, e.g. Nature.
- Watch the video tutorial that pops up during setup for some usage hints.
- Select which “Amazon offers” you want (if any). NOTE: Your MOM does NOT need a Prime account, nor a payment method for this to work. And in general we recommend keeping things simple to start.
- When you bring this Echo Show to your Mom’s house, you will need to change the Wi-Fi settings.
- This would be a good time to review all the messages that will be popping up on her screen… some people are annoyed by too many messages. See next section.
Review Her “Settings”
- Swipe down from the top of the screen.
- Tap the “Settings” gear in the upper right.
- Scroll to “Home Content”.
- Choose which messages you think she will find appropriate. (Note: you can only set these messages up while at her Echo Show… they are not remotely changeable.).
Notes on “Settings”
- Drop-in is useful, if your Mom has trouble speaking to Alexa or tapping the answer button on a call.
- Weather is always useful.
- Shared with You can give you a means to send her pictures to automatically display.
Adjust Her Accessibility Settings
- Scroll to “Accessibility”.
- Choose the settings you think might be helpful.
Notes on Accessibility Settings:
- Closed caption may be helpful.
- Alexa Captioning helps by displaying the text of Alexa’s speech on the screen.
- Communication Without Speech is useful. It transcribes voice messages into text.
- Tap to Alexa adds an icon on the screen that your Mom could touch to call up Alexa actions you determine. For example:
- Call your Alexa devices
Factory Default Reset (needed only if the Echo Show comes with your settings and you want to reset them)
- Swipe down from top of the screen.
- Tap “Settings” gear.
- Scroll to “Device Options” and tap it.
- Scroll to “Reset to Factory Defaults” and tap it.
3. Configure Alexa Communications for Your MOM’s Account
There are two different ways to create and configure your mother’s Alexa Account, depending on whether or not she has a mobile phone capable of running the Alexa App.
The basic issue here is that the Alexa App needs some type of phone number to use as a reference to your mother’s Alexa.
If she has a cellphone modern enough to run the Alexa App, then Alexa can use her cellphone number to remember her. However, if she does not have such a cell phone (or if you can’t get your hands on it because she is locked way), then you can create a separate Google voice number in your mother’s name, and give that to Alexa to use as a reference. In that case, she does not need a cellphone at all.
- If she does have a mobile phone capable of running the Alexa Appp, and you can access that phone, then jump to “Scenario B“.
- If she does NOT have a mobile phone, or if you cannot access it, then there is an extra step first, as explained in Scenario A below.
Step 3a: Create Your Mother’s Alexa Account
Scenario A: She does NOT have a mobile phone, or you cannot access her mobile phone.
You will need to perform these extra steps using YOUR cell phone by adding a Google Voice number. Google Voice will need to use your cell phone number to setup the new number.
NOTE: Alexa Communications really doesn’t “call” this number… it merely uses it as a reference to find your Mom’s Alexa Echo Show.
UPDATE: Since this was first published, reader Allynn made a great suggestion about using TextNow to receive the SMS text setup message. I tested it on a few systems and it works great as an alternative to Google Voice. However as of September 2021, TextNow requires you to use a paid version in order for the number to stay allocated to you for a period longer than a few months. You need this, so you need the paid version if you want to use this approach.
- Sign up for a Gmail account in her name (here is the link to signup for a Gmail account).
- Sign up for a Google Voice number in her name (here is the link to signup for Google Voice).
- Sign into the Alexa app on your phone, using your MOM’s Alexa account. (You will need to delete and re-install the Alexa app to do this). [Don’t worry. Your settings are stored in the cloud, so when you have reinstalled the App and logged in again as you, your old settings should still be there!]
- Proceed to Step 3b.
UPDATE: Since this was first published, reader Lonnie M. made a great suggestion that removes the need to delete a re-install the Alexa app in step 3 above. You can replace item #3 above by this:
- Sign into the Alexa app on your phone, using your MOM’s Alexa account. (You will need to sign out of your Alexa app and later sign back in when you are finished). [Don’t worry. Your settings are stored in the cloud, so when you have signed out as your mom and signed in again as yourself, your old settings will still be there!]
- The Alexa app sign out steps:
- Tap “More”
- Tap “Settings”
- Tap “Sign Out”
Notes about setting up Google Voice:
- Search a new number… do NOT use your phone number. Select any location & number.
- Google will need to use YOUR mobile phone number to complete the setup with a text message.
- Be sure to use your Mom’s Gmail account.
- When you see the “Enter your phone number” prompt, enter YOUR cell phone number. (This will be used to receive a text code for confirmation of setup).
- Enter the code you received.
- Note: Your cell phone number can have only ONE Google Voice Number assigned.
Scenario B. If your Mom has a mobile phone capable of running the Alexa app:
- Install the Alexa app on her phone.
- Log into the Alexa app (as your mother).
- Proceed to Step 3b.
Step 3b: Enter the Phone Number Alexa will Use to Identify your Mother’s Alexa
Once logged in (as your mother) you should see a screen that looks like this:
Figure 2: Screenshot showing “Communicate” Icon.
- Tap the “Communicate” icon on the bottom left (fig 2). Then:
- Enter the Google Voice number, then grant permissions for calling and messaging.
- Your phone’s Google Voice app will receive a verification code.
- Enter your Mom’s mobile phone information, then grant permissions for calling and messaging
- Your Mom’s mobile phone will receive a verification code via text.
Step 3c: Add Your Contact Info So She Can Call You.
In figure 3 below you see the “Person Silhouette” in the upper right.
Figure 3: Screenshot showing “Person Sillhouette”
- Tap the “Person outline” in upper right (fig 3) A different screen will appear showing a “Contact List” as in figure 4 below.
Figure 4: Screenshot showing Contact List
- Tap the 3 vertical dots in the upper right (Fig 4).
- Add YOUR contact info so that Alexa Communications can reach you
Step 3d: Avoid “Importing your contacts”
Alexa will suggest you “import your contacts” but we don’t recommend that.
Figure 5: Decide whether to “Import Contacts”
- Do NOT import all contacts (fig 5)
Step 3e: Set up “Drop-in Feature”
- If your Mom approves, you could also enable Drop-in for your contact. (This can be enabled later, by signing into her Alexa account if conditions change).
- Save and close the Alexa app.
4. Configure Alexa Communications for YOUR account
- Log back into your Alexa app. (If you had to use your phone to complete your Mom’s setup, you will need to delete & re-install the Alexa app).
- Tap the “Communicate” icon on the bottom left (Fig 2).
- Tap the “Person silhouette” in upper right (Fig 3).
- Tap the 3 vertical dots in the upper right (Fig 4). Then Add your Mom’s contact info so that Alexa Communications can reach her from YOUR Alexa App.
- Don’t import all contacts (Fig 5).
5. Test the Installation
You can test this even before delivering to your Mom’s house.
- Move your Mom’s Echo Show to another room to reduce audio feedback. This also enables you to talk to one of the Alexas without the other one responding to your voice.
- On your Echo Show say “Alexa, call Mom” (or whatever name or nickname you put in your Alexa Contacts). (Note: the first time Alexa may ask if you want her mobile phone or Alexa devices… choose Alexa devices.)
- Your Mom’s Echo Show should offer her the option to answer.
- After hanging up, try calling your Echo Show from her Echo show.
If everything worked, bring the Echo Show to your Mom’s home and change the Wi-Fi settings when it boots up.
Please leave any questions in the comments below, and I will try and respond.
In addition, we are collecting common questions and answers people have sent us on the page: “Alexa Questions & Answers” (also here on Tech-enhanced Life).
(1) Amazon advice post on setting up Alexa “for your loved one”.
(2) See my DIY Solution: FireTV Cube to pause TV when Alexa calls.
Disclaimer: This article represents the opinions of the author. This article was NOT sponsored by Amazon or any other corporation.
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