What it does
It is very easy for people with dementia to become dehydrated. Many no longer feel thirst, don't know how to quench thirst, or don't have the dexterity to drink. Jelly Drops are super-hydrating treats, that people with dementia find engaging and easy to eat.
Jelly Drops were designed in response to my grandma Pat's struggle with dehydration. For people with dementia the symptoms of dehydration are often mistakenly attributed to their underlying condition, meaning it can easily go unnoticed until it becomes life-threatening. About a year ago my grandma was unexpectedly rushed to hospital, 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.
How it works
From my observations, people with dementia find eating much easier than drinking. Even still, it can be difficult to engage and encourage them to eat. I found the best way to overcome this is to offer them a treat! This format excites people with dementia, they instantly recognize it and know how to interact with it. Jelly Drops builds on this insight - these bright, tasty treats attract the attention of people with dementia, and the firm, easy to grip 'drops' makes them simple to pick up. The box itself contains many features to help people with dementia interact with it, and crucially it doesn't look like a medical device. It’s friendly aesthetic reduces stigma around the solution, increasing its uptake. When first offered, grandma 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.
Jelly Drops are the result of insights gained by weeks of living in my grandma's care home. I already had a broad idea of the issues people with dementia face, but I started this project by consulting with a dementia psychologist to better understand their behaviors. I then used sensory depriving and VR tools to experience the difference in perception people with dementia feel. After consulting with Ruby Steel from 'The Big Life Fix' to pick up observation and research techniques, I set off to live in a care home for a week. I observed the behaviors of the residents, the routines of the carers, and spoke to family and visitors. Realising a solid form of hydration would be easier to interact with than a liquid, I consulted with doctors to understand how to create a 'super-hydrating' food. I experimented to create a consistency that was easy to pick up and left no residue on the hands to produce a hydrating form that people with dementia could interact with. Returning to the care home a few times I tested many formats and found the treat box to be best way to engage the residents. By offering residents treats from a box, I found even people that would usually ignore me became animated and would excitedly take many. Iterating and testing the form lead me to my final design.
How it is different
Most aids to help carers keep people with Dementia hydrated have childlike or medical stigma associated with them, meaning they often don't get used. Jelly Drops’ treat box format doesn’t cause offence, is synonymous with the care home environment, and promotes enjoyable social interactions between carers and residents. Whilst people with dementia will eat Jelly Drops independently, they're also designed to be shared. This is valuable as it can often be difficult to have a conversation with someone with dementia as they find it hard to express themselves - Jelly Drops’ booklet and features provide a talking point people can bond over whilst simultaneously encouraging them to stay hydrated. Jelly Drops are over 90% water, with extra ingredients making them more hydrating than just drinking that volume alone. Their solid format also increases hydration as it takes longer for the body to break them down, giving the kidney’s a better chance of absorbing the water.
I had a fantastic response during my degree show, receiving many offers to trail Jelly Drops in other care homes, most notably from the BBC World Service who are making a program focusing on tools designed for people with dementia. This will involve Jelly Drops being trialed in a care home for a week, with the residents and carers being interviewed about their effectiveness. I aim to fully utilize these opportunities to carry out further tests at different stages of dementia, with a view to put Jelly Drops into production. I have also been fortunate to be invited to present Jelly Drops at the Global Grad Show during the Dubai Design Week.
Helen Hamlyn Design Award - Snowdon Award for Disability (Radio Interview about this award and Jelly Drops in the 'Project Website' link below) / Dyson School of Design Engineering DESIRE Award for Social Impact