When Lewis Hornby’s grandmother, Pat, who is living with dementia, was rushed to the hospital, his family was told to expect the worst. It turned out that she was severely dehydrated and, after receiving fluids, made a full recovery. A common concern for people living with dementia, dehydration can be caused by a variety of reasons, including forgetting to drink, no longer feeling thirst, or struggling to use a cup.
Inspired by his grandmother’s experience, Hornby decided to tackle the issue of dehydration for people living with dementia as part of his double master’s program in Innovative Design Engineering at the Royal College of Art in London, England. He spent several weeks at his grandmother’s care home and observed the residents’ behaviour. He noticed that many struggled to eat with utensils but had fewer issues using their hands. Residents also understood and enjoyed the social nature of sharing a treat, such as eating a box of chocolates. Building on these observations, Hornby created Jelly Drops — sweet, colourful, ultra-hydrating, bite-sized gummies made up of approximately 90 per cent water.
Hornby’s degree show garnered a lot of attention; he won the Dyson School of Design Engineering DESIRE Award for Social Impact, among others, and received multiple offers to trial Jelly Drops at care homes in the U.K. In October 2018, after a successful crowdfunding campaign, Hornby founded Jelly Drops as a company.
Nick Hooton, Jelly Drops CEO, says the gummies look like a treat, not medication, which helps create positive interactions between people living with dementia and their care partners.
“It’s designed in a fun, friendly way,” Hooton says. “It’s not designed as a medical intervention, but a talking point for carers and family members to engage with them.”
The box opens easily, and each brightly coloured gummy is easy to see and pick up. “You can leave [the box] on the arm of a chair, and they can eat them as they wish,” Hooton says. “It’s an engaging, more independent way for people with dementia to hydrate.”
The drops come in a variety of flavours, including lemon and strawberry, and are a little bit sweet but include little or no sugar. One box is equal to about three glasses of water.
The product is still in the development phase, and the company has recently partnered with a London university’s food innovation lab to refine its recipe. Hooton says the goal is to begin mass manufacturing in the next year, with plans to expand into North America in the next few years. Meanwhile, Jelly Drops is looking for people interested in product trials or assisting with business partnership. [ ]