Lewis Hornby’s grandmother had been experiencing dementia for several years, but in 2018, she had a sudden health crisis that put her in the hospital. At first, the family thought it was a downturn in her condition, but the actual cause was severe dehydration. When given intravenous fluids, she bounced back.
At the time, Lewis was in a graduate programme in innovation design engineering at the Royal College of Art and Imperial College, in London. He did some research and learned that dehydration was a common problem for people with dementia.
He decided to try to find a solution to help his grandmother and people like her for his master’s project.
“Hydration is a massive health issue, not just for people living with dementia,” Lewis says. “Especially for people in care homes, about one in five are low-intake dehydrated.”
Lewis spoke to dementia specialists and learned that there are several reasons people with dementia often don’t drink enough.
“They may no longer equate drinking with quenching thirst, or recognise cups, or have the dexterity to use cups,” he says.
Lewis moved into his grandmother’s care home for a month to do research in person. “I realised that when I walk through the care home generally, residents would ignore me,” he says. “Fair enough. But if I had a box of chocolates, everyone is your best friend, and is taking a handful and speaking to you.”