As 2019 slowly winds to a close (where has the time gone?!), I’m keeping my eyes peeled for a fascinating invention that its creator hopes will help people with dementia by the end of the year. Pattinson’s Jelly Drops are brightly coloured, deliciously flavoured pods of “edible water” — 90% liquid water in fact, with gelling agents and electrolytes making up the rest. They are made specifically to appeal to the eyes and palates of people with dementia, as well as address a dangerous problem they face: dehydration.
Creator Lewis Hornby threw himself into finding a solution when his grandmother Pat, who has Alzheimer’s, was rushed to the hospital and diagnosed with severe dehydration. In his research, Hornby discovered that drinking water can be difficult for folks battling dementia: they may not feel thirsty, might have trouble swallowing, or even be on medications that dry them out. In order to improve his grandmother’s quality of life, as well as those of others with similar conditions, he had to think… inside the box. (Candy box, that is.)
“For people with dementia, these solid shapes can be much easier to hold and ingest than a regular glass of water. They also take longer for the body to break down, which increases how much the body can absorb. They really are a pretty simple solution to a harrowing problem.
And most importantly, they were a total hit with Lewis’ grandmother. ‘When first offered, grandma ate seven Jelly Drops in 10 minutes,’ Lewis said, ‘the equivalent to a cup full of water, something that would usually take hours and require much more assistance.’
Lewis noticed when visiting his grandmother that the dementia patients often struggled to eat if they were just handed a plate of food. But they had a much easier time if they knew they could eat with their hands. For example, when he gave them a box of chocolates, they instinctively knew to pick up the individual chocolates and put them in their mouths.’
Hornby’s close relationship with his grandmother (he’s named the drops after her!) not only inspired him but also served as a testing ground for boxes of his drops, as he trialled them extensively with her and her fellow nursing home residents. The Jelly Drops project formed part of his Innovation Design Engineering degree from the Royal College of Art, and now Hornby and his team are working hard to roll the product out to the wider market. (You can keep track of their efforts here.)
As the saying goes, “growing old is not for the faint of heart.” Having spent some time in assisted living myself after my dog-inflicted leg injury, I’ve seen first-hand how rough the latter part of our lives can be. So, I’m a giant fan of this invention: it not only promises to empower people with dementia to hydrate and make themselves comfortable but to do so in a delicious and fun way. I look forward to seeing Pattinson’s Jelly Drops (hi, Pat!) on the market soon!