Lewis Hornby was inspired by his gran to create Jelly Drops – a fun, colourful, and hydrating sweet for people with dementia.
Engineering graduate Lewis Hornby’s masters project at the Royal College of Art was one close to his heart – inspired by his grandmother, who lives with dementia, he created Jelly Drops, a jelly sweet designed to help aid hydration for people who may otherwise struggle or forget to drink water.
Pat, Lewis’ gran, was taken to hospital in the past suffering from dehydration. “About a year ago my grandma was unexpectedly rushed to hospital,” Lewis wrote. “She was found to be severely dehydrated. Thankfully, after 24 hours on IV fluids she was back to her normal happy self, and is still enjoying a good quality of life to this day. Unfortunately for the 850,000 people in the UK with dementia, this isn’t uncommon, and many aren’t as lucky as my grandma Pat.”
Dehydration is a common problem among those with memory impairments, who struggle to remember to eat and drink. Even when the brain signals that it’s time to drink, those signals don’t always work correctly in people with dementia – and the problem is exacerbated by medications and dementia-related illnesses which can contribute to dehydration.
He was inspired by a visit to his gran’s care home, where he noticed that the residents who also lived with memory impairments may have struggled to eat when presented with a plate of food, but instinctively knew how to eat with their hands when presented with a box of chocolates.
The colourful little sweets are made of over 90% water, gelling agents and electrolytes, and are chunky enough to be picked up with ease by those who have weak grips. In Lewis’ original design, they come inside a sleek white box, which is chunky enough to be easily picked up and handled, and is also designed to act as a high contrast to the colourful sweets for people with visual impairments.
Seven Jelly Drops are equivalent to a full cup of water – Lewis noted that his gran would take hours and require significant assistance to drink a cup of water. The entire box of Jelly Drops is equivalent to around half of a person’s daily fluid intake. The solid form of the sweets are more hydrating as they take longer for the body to break down, making it easier for the kidneys to absorb the water.
Lewis was adamant that what he designed would not be “offensive” to people with dementia, noticing that they are often mollycoddled or treated like children, or that the hydration systems on offer for them are too medical. Lewis’ design is fun, and its design emulating a box of chocolates or sweets makes them fun and shareable.
After his creation went viral, Lewis is now working to make Jelly Drops a commercial reality. Hopefully, these fun little drops of life-saving hydration will be available to by soon!
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