IT’S the hands-free home help that can play your favourite songs, do your online shopping and tell you if it’s going to rain.

Now the Amazon Alexa is helping people with brain damage live independently thanks to one of Scotland’s largest mental health charities.

Penumbra helps around 1600 people across the country, including individuals with memory and cognitive impairments caused by alcohol-related brain damage (ARBD).

The problem, linked to a vitamin deficiency caused by excessive alcohol consumption, causes symptoms similar to dementia and recovery can be possible by improving the diet and ditching drink.

However, ARBD’s symptoms can make it harder for individuals to stick to the changes needed to improve their health.

READ MORE: How Amazon’s Alexa helps me cope with brain damage

Now Penumbra is helping its ARBD clients use assistive technologies like iPads to help manage their every day lives, keeping appointments, carrying out key tasks, taking prescribed medications and avoiding the boredom, isolation and confusion that can lead them to relapse.

And the organisation says the Alexa, which is voice activated, is the most useful for the group.

Alison Garrow, a senior manager for Penumbra’s ARBD supported accommodation in Glasgow and its supported living service, said: “The Alexa works well because you don’t have to touch it and you don’t have to remember codes and keys.

“We are trying to find things that are easy for people to manage. Sitting down at a tablet is a big challenge for some. We could do a whole session on how to set it up, but by the next time they’ll have forgotten.

“This helps them regain a bit of independence and a bit of the normality other people take for granted.”

Clients using the devices are helped to invest in home internet and the purchase of the items by case workers who ensure they are claiming all benefits available to them, and who also make applications to charity funds.

Garrow believes the extent of ARBD is underestimated due to difficulties in obtaining a diagnosis. Individuals must be alcohol-free for assessment, despite many struggling with ongoing addiction, and symptoms such as blackouts, clumsiness, and memory loss are often dismissed as either part of drinking or ageing.

However, Penumbra is working with affected individuals as young as 37.

Garrow says every case is different, explaining: “We are working with people who have experienced a lot of trauma, often from a young age. Some people appear quite well, others don’t remember to brush their teeth or how to lay out their clothes. ARBD can have a very significant impact and they need to be treated as individuals.”

On the role of digital devices, she went on: “Technology has advanced so much that it can be very person-centred. It’s looking at things that people aren’t frightened of, that are very much on their level and can be used to build recognisable structure into their lives.

“The technology is giving them a better quality of life, not replacing a support worker.”

Qualified workers already used whiteboards and other items to help clients with every day living.

As well as this, they now take further steps like installing food delivery apps on tablets to encourage those with ARBD eat cooked meals on difficult days, such as those on which they may relapse.

Meanwhile, subscriptions to music and TV streaming services are used to alleviate boredom, keep clients away from the bottle and help them participate in conversations about hit TV and movie releases.

Garrow says this can also lessen the feelings of loneliness which can stem from living alone and coping with addiction, something which can also damage or end relationships.

Other devices used by the charity include digital doorbells with video capacity to allow those living in their own tenancies to feel secure and find out who is calling without having to open their front doors.

Nick McGill, a Penumbra client from Glasgow’s east end, is amongst those to benefit. He said: “I told staff that I had a random knock on the door in the middle of the night one time and I couldn’t get back to sleep, it was on my mind all night. It’s scary when you live alone when things like that happen.

“It’s a simple device, but it’s really effective and increases my sense of security.”

Garrow said: “With a lot of encouragement, this has opened their eyes to the possibility of what technology can do for them. It’s building their confidence and skills.”