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.
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.