Jelly Drops are considered by some to be the solution to dehydration among seniors, particularly seniors who have Alzheimer’s Disease and related dementia. After all, they were created by Lewis Hornby who wanted his beloved grandmother with Alzheimer’s disease to increase her daily water intake.
He created a recipe that essentially made a gummy with 0.416 ounces of water, gums and binders, flavors and preservatives, and no sugar that you could hold easily in your hand. One tray of 24 jelly drops gives patients with Alzheimer’s disease 300 ml water, equivalent to 1.25 cups of water.
For anyone who has worked with people who have Alzheimer’s, this seems like a great solution. Getting the individual to focus on drinking a glass of water could be near impossible. Then that leads to dehydration, constipation, etc. But if you could just hand them a gummy to pop in their mouth – easy! And if it’s the only thing that gets them to consume water, then it must be okay.
Well, it depends on what view you are taking. If you are talking to someone well-versed in food ingredients, health and their potential harm in the body, Jelly Drops may not be your best choice. Forget the fact that the Alzheimer’s Society (UK) has supported the development of the product and the company has won over 15 awards for design, innovation, and social impact (note: no awards were for health improvement).
Let’s examine this in depth with some detail and see really what jelly drops are.
What are Jelly Droplets / Drops?
The Jelly Drops website offers their own definition: Jelly Drops are award-winning sweets designed to boost hydration. They’re 95% water, sugar free and vegan with a fantastic solid but smooth texture!
They were created for the grandma who was struggling to hydrate, like other elderly patients who have chronic diseases, especially Alzheimer’s.
The ingredients in Jelly Drops are:
Water (95%), Maltodextrin, Gelling Agents (Gellan Gum, Xanthan Gum, Locust Bean Gum, Acacia Gum, Agar), Dextrin, Electrolytes (Sodium Citrate, Sodium Chloride, Potassium Chloride), Natural Flavorings, Colors (Curcumin, Paprika Extract, Concentrated Carrot Extract, Copper Chlorophyllin), Spirulina Extract, Flavor Enhancers (Lactic Acid, Malic Acid, Citric Acid), Sweetener (Sucralose), Preservatives (Potassium Sorbate, Sodium Benzoate)
The nutritional values of Jelly Drops are as follows:
|Salt Equivalent (g)
Simple enough, right? Not so fast.
2 Ingredients to Note
With the first ingredient being water, Jelly Drops look like a winning recipe, but some of these ingredients deserve a closer look if your loved one has certain medical conditions.
Xanthan Gum – “Appears to be safe for most people… higher intake levels can also increase the risk of digestive problems” – https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/xanthan-gum
Sucralose – “One small study in 17 people with severe obesity who didn’t regularly consume these sweeteners reported that sucralose elevated blood sugar levels by 14% and insulin levels by 20%.”
One study found that sucralose lowered the healthy anaerobic bacteria by 47-80% in the gut of rats after only 12 weeks. Altering gut flora is a serious problem. Other artificial sweeteners change gut bacteria negatively as well and this was reported back in 2014 by Israeli scientists that made worldwide headlines. – https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/sucralose-good-or-bad#blood-sugar
In 2020, Yale researchers found that consuming sucralose in combination with carbohydrates can cause high blood sugar levels even if the person didn’t have the high levels before.
The bottom line here is that ingredients make a difference! If ingredients cause inflammation, you could be worsening Alzheimer’s disease and other chronic diseases. High blood sugar levels have been found to increase the risk of Alzheimer’s Disease.
It’s premature of the Alzheimer’s Society to endorse jelly drops before any studies even show long-term benefits. Even the medical societies won’t endorse effective treatments that work for Alzheimer’s before testing them.
The Real Cost of Jelly Drops
The price, as of this writing, for a single tray of Jelly Drops is 7.95 British Pounds or about $11.09 total in USD (not counting shipping). The price is lower when you buy more, set up a recurring buy, etc.
Where one Jelly Drop contains 12.5 ml of water, a tray of 24 is going to contain 300 ml (1.25 cups) of water. Now let’s do some math here.
- One tray of Jelly Drops costs about $11.09 USD.
- One tray of Jelly Drops contains 1.25 cups of water.
- One gallon of water contains 16 cups.
- 12.8 trays of Jelly Drops equals 1 gallon of water (16 / 1.25 = 12.8).
This means 1 gallon of water consumed through Jelly Drops will cost a whopping $141.95 USD (12.8 * $11.09)!
You can lower that total by buying in bulk, but the fact remains – getting fluids through Jelly Drops is very expensive.
Warming – Choking Hazard
If you are buying Jelly Drops through the official website, at check out you are prompted with a warning/disclaimer that you have to check to acknowledge. That notice reads:
I understand Jelly Drops are not recommended for those with swallowing difficulties or suspected swallowing difficulties. Consult a speech & language therapist if you have any concerns before use.https://www.jellydrops.com/cart
To be clear, Jelly Drops are not recommended for people with swallowing difficulties or who are suspected of having swallowing difficulties. I could not find any measurements on the size of one Jelly Drop, but based on pictures, they look to be at least 1″ by 2″. In other words, they’re the perfect size for serious choking hazards.
Again, anyone that has worked with people who have Alzheimer’s or related conditions knows that choking hazards are a near constant concern. It’s called dysphagia, and it’s related to multiple sclerosis, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease, stroke, and dementia generally.
See other suggestions on ways to keep loved ones with Alzheimer’s safe at home.
Alternatives to Jelly Drops
Some people think the answer to an alternative to Jelly Drops is Jello itself, but it’s really not. Consider that Jello has a significant amount of sugar, which can accelerate the progression of chronic diseases.
This whole dehydration issue has to be looked at more broadly. You can’t take a narrow view of it. It’s not just a matter of getting in enough water. To eliminate dehydration issues, you have to consider electrolytes and vitamins and minerals, too. All of these work together to overcome dehydration.
Utilizing something that looks like a food but contains very little vitamins and minerals and electrolytes is being short-sighted. Something like Jello that is close to 100% sugar means it will rob the body of vitamins and minerals. It contains no electrolytes. The sugar-free Jello is just as bad with aspartame and sucralose; not just one artificial sweetener but two!
The Best Alternative – Flavored Water
We consulted with a nurse RN, Wendy Reese-Hill, who worked as a nurse at Blue Water Bay Nursing Home in Niceville, FL for three years. She worked in the Alzheimer’s Unit there, which housed 30+ residents.
“We never had the problem of dehydration in the whole time I was there because we were proactive,” Wendy said. “When we made our rounds, we always had flavored water with us to offer to the residents. We fixed it up for them, pouring the water into a nice glass and then adding real fruit, not fruit additives. We added orange slices, lemons, and limes. Our goal was to make them want to drink water and we had no limits on how much they could have. We had full compliance of both the residents and the staff.”
Flavored water of this type is the easiest, least-costly, and healthiest alternative to Jelly Drops.
Provide Foods That Contain Water
Foods contain water that is metabolically active. Here’s a list of the percentages of water found in different foods:
|Fat-free milk, cantaloupe, strawberries, watermelon, lettuce, cabbage, celery, spinach, pickles, squash (cooked)
|Fruit juice, yogurt, apples, grapes, oranges, carrots, broccoli (cooked), pears, pineapple
|Bananas, avocados, cottage cheese, ricotta cheese, potato (baked), corn (cooked), shrimp
|Pasta, legumes, salmon, ice cream, chicken breast
|Ground beef, feta cheese, tenderloin steak (cooked)
Increasing consumption of foods that contain large amounts of water is a simple way to prevent dehydration. What elderly person wouldn’t want fresh cantaloupe, strawberries or watermelon every day? And who could say no to fresh grapes (mind the choking hazard), pear slices, or fresh pineapple?
None of these foods have added artificial sweeteners; they come naturally with their own sweetness – and electrolytes and vitamins and minerals.
Why Hydration Can Be a Challenge as We Age
No doubt, hydration is a challenge for everyone, particularly as we age, and even more so for people who have Alzheimer’s Disease and related dementias.
There are eight main reasons why drinking enough water becomes a big challenge for the elderly:
- Kidney function decreases in the elderly, especially in those who have diabetes.
- As you age, your muscle mass decreases. Muscles normally hold extra water in the body.
- Memory difficulties cause people to forget that it’s time to drink more water.
- Movement disorders or disabilities make it difficult to access the bathroom and thus, the person makes a decision to cut down on water intake to avoid extra trips to the bathroom.
- Those with urinary incontinence will naturally believe that if they cut down their water intake, they won’t have as many episodes of incontinence.
- The elderly are more prone to immune system breakdown and infections. When anyone has the flu, if symptoms include diarrhea and vomiting, there’s a loss of fluids in the body and dehydration can become a reality.
- Swallowing issues make it difficult to drink enough water.
- Signs and symptoms of dehydration are often ineffective for determining hydration status in care home residents. Taking a blood venous sample is necessary for determining hydration in these patients. In one study, 20% of long-term care residents had dehydration and 28% had impending dehydration.
How Much Water Do Seniors Need?
Knowing how to quickly compute water needs is vital if you are working around the elderly or have them living in your home.
The calculation is easy: Take body weight in pounds and divide by two to get the number of ounces needed for the day.
If Grandma weighs 100 pounds, she needs 50 ounces water per day. There are 32 ounces in a quart so 50 ounces is 1.56 quarts. The amount of water that is consumed per day can include water content of foods and beverages.
20 Signs of Dehydration
Watch for signs of dehydration if you think that fluid intake is waning. Here’s a comprehensive list:
- Dry mouth and dry tongue
- Low blood pressure
- Blood pressure drops when standing up
- Muscle weakness
- Rapid heart rate
- Tongue furrowing
- Tongue coating
- Decreased saliva
- Dry or cracked lips
- Blueness of lips
- Reduced underarm and palm sweating
- Dryness of the skin
- Reduced tear secretions
- Eyeball has less tone than normal
- Increased body temperature
- Reduced volume of urine
Knowing these signs and symptoms certainly is important, but yet they can no longer be used to detect low intake dehydration in older people. That’s what researchers reported in the Nursing Times Sept 2019 issue of this journal.
Dehydration is something that we all face, especially in the summer months. Many people understand that thirst is a sign of dehydration, but this sign may be dismissed by the older person as not important at the time when it shows up.
When dehydration becomes severe, other symptoms appear such as shriveled skin, delirium and a sunken look in the eyes.
Think through nutritional choices and look at it from different perspectives. Just because something has no calories, are vegan and taste good doesn’t mean it has any nutritional merit. Make your choices carefully, especially for your loved ones. Buy Jelly Drops if you think they’re the answer, but consider alternatives to Jelly Drops first.