The problem and solution
About a year ago my grandma was unexpectedly rushed to hospital and diagnosed as severely dehydrated. Thankfully, after 24 hours on IV fluids she was back to her normal self but, for the 50 million people in the world with dementia, this situation is common and many aren’t as lucky as my grandma. Dehydration is one of the leading causes of death for people with dementia.
At Jelly Drops we have created hydrating treats that enable people with dementia to hydrate more often and independently. Many people with dementia are not aware that they are dehydrated as they do not equate drinking with relieving thirst. 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.
Eating is easier than drinking for many people with dementia. Nevertheless it’s still difficult to encourage them to take food or drink. One way to overcome this is to offer them a treat in the form of a sweet, which they instantly recognise, link to reward and understand how to consume.
Jelly Drops are over 90% water, with added ingredients to optimise hydration. In addition to reducing care requirements and illnesses, Jelly Drops enhance the social interactions between staff and residents. The drops transform what could otherwise be a frustrating and upsetting task, into an encounter that is enjoyable. These moments can make a real difference to a resident’s overall wellbeing.
When we first offered Jelly Drops to my grandma Pat she ate 7 Jelly Drops in 10 minutes – the equivalent to a cup full of water! This would usually take hours and require much more assistance.
My grandmother’s experience motivated me to find a way to help people with dementia remain hydrated and I decided to work on this idea whilst studying on the Innovation Design Engineering Double Masters run by Imperial College London and Royal College of Art.
I met Claudia and Nick through my course and we have all been working to help reduce dehydration in dementia patients. More recently Eunice joined the team who is a graduate chemist from Imperial – she will be helping with the final stages of product development as well as scaling up production.
We have trialled Jelly Drops at a number of different care homes and received really encouraging results. We are aiming to launch later this year and planning to raise investment so we can scale up production
Enterprise Lab support
In 2018 we took part in the Venture Catalyst Challenge (VCC) which provided an incredible kick-start to our entrepreneurial journey through the programme of masterclasses, coaching and expert advice. Since then we have met an fantastic group of advisors through the Imperial Venture Mentoring Service (IVMS) who have been very valuable in helping us build the company and develop the product.
Successes and setbacks
One of the most exciting points in our development has been partnering with the Alzheimer’s Society, the UK’s leading dementia support and research charity, and we were the first company to be accepted onto their new accelerator programme.
Other highlights were reaching over 100 million views (of our website) and learning that our waiting list exceeded 25,000 people indicating there is a real demand for our product. We haven’t experienced any major set-backs yet and the mishaps that have happened we always try to frame as learning opportunities. Hopefully we’ll be able to continue doing this!
Advice to aspiring entrepreneurs
Find great co-founders as soon as possible who believe in the idea and are driven to make it happen. The team behind your product is so important.