Jelly Drops are super-hydrating, bite size treats, that people with dementia find engaging and easy to eat. Designed in response to my grandmother’s struggle with dehydration, Jelly Drops are the result of insights gained by weeks of living in her care home.
For people with dementia the confusion and sleepiness caused by dehydration is often mistakenly attributed to their underlying condition, meaning it can often go unnoticed until it becomes life-threatening. There are a variety of reasons why people with dementia stop drinking; they may no longer feel thirst, may not equate drinking with quenching thirst, may not recognise a cup for what it is, or may not have the dexterity to use a cup. What's more, they often don’t understand instructions to drink, and refuse to be assisted.
By observing the behaviours of the care home residents I found many were far more independent when it came to eating, and tended to find it more intuitive to use their hands. Even still, when presented with a plate of food most would struggle to tackle it unaided. It was a different story however when I got a box of chocolates out. Residents that were otherwise disengaged with their environment would ‘light up’ and gratefully accept a treat when offered, with many taking multiple. There is something about this format that excites people with dementia, they instantly recognise it and know how to interact with it.
I use this phenomenon to encourage residents to eat Jelly Drops and hydrate. The treats are over 90% water, with gelling agents and electrolytes added to improve hydration and ease of use. Their shape means they are easy to pick up for people with weak grips and their bright colours contrasts with the white box to help people with limited vision.
The box itself contains many features to help people with dementia interact with it. The chunky handle allows the lid to be open and closed whilst holding the box, with the locking hinges keeping the lid upright, freeing a hand to eat the treats. The box’s branded aesthetic makes it look more like a shop bought treat box than a medical device, this is critical to reduce stigma around the solution and increase its uptake by care homes. A small booklet inside provides a talking point for visitors or staff to converse with the residents over, whilst simultaneously encouraging them to eat more.
Early tests with my grandmother have proved very successful. When first offered she ate 7 Jelly Drops in 10 minutes – the equivalent to a cup full of water, something that would usually take hours and require much more assistance. Eating the whole box would account for around half the necessary daily fluid intake.
Dehydration reduces the quality of life for many with dementia, and left unchecked it can be fatal. Jelly Drops aims to tackle this by providing a source of hydration they can engage with, increasing independence, reducing reliance on others and improving social interactions between carers and residents.
School of Design
MA Innovation Design Engineering, 2018
+44 (0) 7540 222298
My work at the RCA includes a rebar alternative made from plastic bottles designed for earthquake-prone developing countries, air pollution reduction devices capable of improving air quality on a city-wide scale, and hydrating treats to improve quality of life amongst people with dementia.
- MEng Civil Engineering, University of Bristol, 2016
- Design Engineer, Imperial College Professor, London, 2017; Civil Engineer, Mott MacDonald, 2012-2015
- Helen Hamlyn Design Award, The Snowdon Award for Disability, 2018
- Mark Blunden, London students' glass chimneys to suck up pollution, Evening Standard, 12th March, 2018, page7