How to create "remember your medicines" machine for elderly person

I’m looking for the best way to built an solution for the following practical problem:
My father (87) needs to take his medicine twice a day. Often he forgets this. To avoid this we are calling him twice a day to ask him if he took his medicine. I was thinking about an OpenHab driven solution. If possible I would prefer to make it as fool-proof as possible. The man is old and cannot use diificult things like email or MMS messages on a mobile phone. It would be great if I could run this application at my own local OpenHab system and only activate something at in his remote living room. Something like an automated call to his phone at home. It would be great that this action gives feedback that the phonecall was answered (he heard the message), so we can be sure we “warned” him and he answered to our “warning”. Does something like this exist (as a service or action or binding) and if so, what is that and how can we implement this? Another way to get this possibly done is by installing a shelly2.5 (2 outlets, 2 inputs) at his home that flashes lights when the time for taking the medicine is there. By means of a toggle switch that he has to switch, we can be made aware of the fact that he took the medicine. Commanding the lamp outlet and reading the switch status should be done from my local application to his remote house. He has a very small bandwith internet, but at least he has internet. Is this a possible approach and, if yes, how should it be done? The trigger is very easy (2 cron timers every day on a certain time). If it is not possible to run this on my own OpenHab I can also install OpenHab at his home and run a very easy application there. It is not that we don’t want to spent the time to call him twice a day, but he feels bad about the fact that we have to do that twice a day and he is “wasting our time” (his words) by requiring that. Any other good ideas how we should approach this technically?

What types of communication does he have access to? I am not sure using openHAB to call by phone is too feasible for most people.

40 years ago at work I did develop a rudimentary system to call our security people and use a synthetic voice to alert to a building fire alarm problem. We used some chips from the log defunct Radio Shack store chain along with tome other difficult to source electronic components.

Why don´t take a automatic pill dispenser with reminder ?

Personal opinion: you would be better of with your shelly idea and a separate openHAB installation at his home. I’m not aware if it is possible to trigger and receive signals to / from shelly remotely, but my personal opinion is to avoid exposing IoT devices to Internet wherever possible.
A Raspberry 3B would be enough for a openHABian installation and quite cheap since the 4B model is released, install the necessary bindings to drive shelly and to notify yourself after your dad confirmed his intake (maybe the Telegramm or the email action) & write the time based rules for the reminders and you are good to go…

My opinions are:

However this needs a smartphone. I don’t know if he can operate one or have any smart device where you can install Telegram.

  • I’m sure that you could use an older Android Phone to make calls just by calling some HTTP endpoint (I mean I’m sure there is a similar application for Android like this). So you could add a seperate phone at your home and use that as a caller. However this is not that easy solution.

  • Lights: This is maybe the easiest and the most foolproof solution. If you don’t want to install a Raspberry at his home, you could use Shelly Cloud (there is an API for that), but I would also prefer to do this locally (what happens if the internet is down at his or your site… the automations are gone).
    If you install a Raspberry, you could also attach a speaker to it (or use an external speaker) and use some TTS there also to have an audible alarm also…

Just throwing in a curve ball…

  • Do you NOT want to call your dad twice a day?

So maybe, it would be easier (and nicer for your dad) that YOU get the reminders and call him?

My wife’s 80+ year old father loves it when she calls… and now that she has taught him the “Joys” of WhatsApp video calling…

(Oh dear lord… Kill me now…)


Easy way that I use for my Insulin
is a cron job with a Google Mini

rule "Insulin"


  Time cron "30 7 * * *"   // at 07:30

val mededeling2="Het is tijd om insuline te nemen."
say(mededeling2, "googletts:nlNLWavenetC", "chromecast:chromecast:d790aab3366xxxxxxx") // kitchen
say(mededeling2, "googletts:nlNLWavenetC", "chromecast:chromecast:24a0b3ea9dbxxxxxxx") // bedroom


As being stated in my question, it is not that we don’t want to call him. He thinks that it is a big deal for us and that he is wasting our time. Some elderly want to keep independant as long as possible. That’s the only reason why I want to create this kind of thing. Of course he is not independant of us, because he cannot build this by himself, so he will be depending on us. But at least he is not depending on us twice a day every day. That’s the thing we want to help him with.

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I feel your pain

Our aged P’s are complaining bitterly about us ‘fusing’ over them.

‘they are quite capable of going out to buy food’

Agreed, that’s another option I did not think about yet. I will consider this solution.

If you got him an Alexa device, could you program reminders into that?

Or even a routine that requires him to acknowledge something?

Assuming he or an accommodating neighbour has a WiFi connection.

Which then got me thinking

If you have two alexas on your Amazon account, do they both have to be on the same network, or can you push commands from your openHAB2 to an Alexa device somewhere else?

(You could set up a VPN between locations and make the Alexa appear on your home network, but maybe that’s a step too far)

Could the same theory apply to Google Assistant devices?

I think the local option with a Shelly device is the best one, including a switch he needs to toggle to acknowledge that he took the medicine. You could set up the local one to send you and your family a message (email/Telegram) when he did not toggle the switch within a certain period.


that is a very good question Stuart

My elderly father is in our Alexa household. He lives about 50 miles away and his Alexa devices show up in the Alexa app and as Things in our OH. I’ve never tried sending TTS commands to them, but I’m sure it would work. Wednesday would be a good day for testing though :wink:!


I have multiple Alex’s on my account…including devices that are at my office (which has no connection to my home)

I can easily speak commands at the office that turn devices on and off at my home.

So yes you can operate multiple locations as long as they are on the same Amazon account.


That’s interesting…

So do you have them linked to your openHAB setup?

And can you try getting OH to start a routine or make an announcement on the one that is not on the same LAN as your OH?

(I’m curious to know if the command goes directly to the IP address of the Alexa, or it go via the Alexa Cloud service?)

In this use case, could a routine be created that does something like

“Remind Papa to take his meds”

  • Require a response
  • If a response is positive “Thank Papa and assure him that nobody else has been disturbed” and notify someone else of OR log the positive response
  • If there is no response or the response is negative, send an alert / start an Intercom / Inter-Alexa / Telephone call

I would love to know the results of your test, as this strikes me as a “Really good use of the technology”

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I use the HUE Emulation as the connection to OH.

If I’m at the office and a delivery driver calls me and say’s he’s in front of my home. I can tell Alexa to “Open the front gate” as I watch on my CCTV app. Once the driver has left the package and walked out of the gate I can tell Alexa to “Close the Front Gate” and it will close.

I have not tried to remote tts to the office.

I think if you would want to run a routine like you have described you would need to write your own Alexa skill.

Squid :squid:

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I don’t know if it has the “requires acknowledgement” that the OP might want, but this might be a start

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I want to thank all contributors to this topic. It made the range of possible solutions much wider than it was at the start of the topic.

For those who want to know the final result: I selected the “everything local” option, where there is a PI and shelly locally, to be not depending on the www to warn my dad to take his medicine. Reporting of missed medicines is of course done to my email account. If the www fails I probably don’t get the message, but this will only happen if two failures are there at the same time (dad does not react on the warning to take his medicine AND the www is down). This is an acceptable risk to me. If he forgets his medication once he will not die because of that.

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