Lewis Hornby’s grandmother, Pat, suffers from dementia. A few years ago Pat’s family was blindsided when she needed to be rushed to the hospital — all had seemed normal. Whatever was happening was both sudden and a mystery. The medical emergency turned out to be a case of severe dehydration. After 24 hours on IV fluids Hornby’s grandmother was back to her normal, happy self according to Hornby. Still, he wanted to make sure the family didn’t have to endure another frantic trip to the ER while trying to guess what’s killing grandma.
The Alzheimer’s Site notes that dehydration is extremely common for people who suffer from dementia and Alzheimer’s Disease. They forget to drink water, forget where the water is, forget that they’re thirsty, no longer feel thirst, no longer enjoy drinking water, can no longer swallow thin liquids, and even forget how to swallow. (Those are seven items on a list that spans to infinity for why dementia is the worst.) Getting people with dementia to drink water can be a monumentally difficult task, either because they can’t or won’t.
So Hornby came up with a pretty novel idea to simplify the fluid intake of dementia patients. You know what people with dementia don’t hate? Candy. Bright, colorful, yummy candy. Hornby said he was more or less aware of this but it became especially clear after he spent time with his grandmother in her nursing home. and set out to create a dehydration solution for his grandma that took advantage of one desire too strong for even dementia to erase: the need to treat yo’self.
And so Jelly Drops were born. The super hydrating candy looks like a big jelly bean and hydrates like a glass of water. The drops are 90% water, and also include gelling agents and electrolytes (found in sports drinks like Gatorade) to aid in hydration. The drops are extremely easy for dementia patients to handle and eat. They even come in dementia-friendly packaging so that those who need Jelly Drops can easily find and see them, and easily open their box to get their extra fluids.
According to Hornby, after he introduced the Jelly Drops to his grandma Pat, she ate 7 of them in 10 minutes, or the equivalent of a glass of water. Getting his grandmother to drink an actual glass of water would have taken hours and been way more difficult, Hornby said. Check out the video of Pat enjoying her new treats.
The grandson of the year’s invention has already won a number of awards, including the Helen Hamlyn Design Award, Snowdon Award for Disability, and the Dyson School of Design Engineering DESIRE Award for Social Impact. Hornby is continuing to develop and test his invention with his grandmother and other dementia patients.
This story was originally published August 22, 2018.