Man Invented Edible Water Jellies That Resemble Candy to Help Hydrate Dementia Patients

Lewis Hornby invented Jelly Drops after his grandmother with dementia suffered from severe dehydration. They help dementia patients stay hydrated.

Robin Zlotnick - Author

Jul. 31 2019, Updated 2:42 p.m. ET

You might not realize it, but staying hydrated is a common struggle for people with Alzheimer's or dementia. One man is on a crusade to eliminate that struggle. When Lewis Hornby's grandmother Pat, an Alzheimer's patient, was rushed to the hospital and diagnosed with a severe case of dehydration, he came up with a creative solution. 

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There are several reasons why dementia patients have trouble staying hydrated. They might forget to drink water, not feel thirsty, or they might be unable to swallow thin liquids. Additionally, according to Alzheimer's Society, "some medications and dementia-related illnesses can also make dehydration worse." Lewis' solution, called Jelly Drops, addresses all of those challenges.

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Lewis was so affected by his grandmother's incident that he decided to learn everything he could to come up with a solution. According to Yahoo, "he educated himself on the issue by using sensory deprivation tools and virtual reality, reaching out to a dementia psychologist, spending a week living in a dementia care home with his grandmother, and speaking to doctors about how to create a product that could be eaten easily but provide hydration."

He was super committed to the cause! He used all his accumulated knowledge to create Jelly Drops. They come in six bright colors and flavors, which makes them exciting for dementia patients. They're also made of 90 percent water, which makes them totally hydrating. Other ingredients include gelling agents and electrolytes.

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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.

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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.

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"Residents who were otherwise disengaged with their environment would light up and gratefully accept a treat when offered," he told Metro, with many taking multiple pieces of the "candy." There is something about this format that excites people with dementia. They instantly recognize it and know how to interact with it."

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Lewis studied at the Royal College of Art and is only 24 years old, so he's well on his way to using his skills to make a huge impact on the world around him. He made Jelly Drops as part his Innovation Design Engineering degree. 

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Lewis won several awards for Jelly Drops, including the Helen Hamlyn Centre Design Award and the Dyson School of Design Engineering DESIRE Award for Social Impact. He's also partnered with Alzheimer's Society through their Innovation Accelerator. A crowdfunding page helped Lewis raise about $10,000 to fund his trials.

He is working hard to put Jelly Drops in more nursing homes and hospitals where dementia patients live. According to the Jelly Drops website, they are not currently available to buy, but Lewis is hoping that they will be available toward the end of 2019. They've now been dubbed "Pattinson's Jelly Drops," named after Lewis' grandma Pat. 

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