In 2014 my Gran was admitted to hospital for a routine hip operation. Whilst she was recovering she became incredibly confused and disorientated. She didn’t know who she was and struggled to recognise her family. We thought it was the early signs of dementia. When she returned home from hospital, she had a bad fall and was diagnosed by a doctor with severe dehydration.
My Gran went from living independently in her own home to moving in with us and having full time care. Before she became ill, she loved going for walks along the beach with me, my mum and our dog. Each week she met up with friends at the local church, had her hair done every Friday, cooked her own meals and loved sitting out in the back garden doing Sudoku. After the fall she was bed bound and unable to look after herself. It changed all of our lives.
At the time, I was studying Product Design at Bournemouth University and decided to use my personal experience to focus my degree on finding a way to help people like my Gran. This is when Droplet began to evolve. I wanted to develop a product to help vulnerable people to drink more. To make it easier for patients to be reminded to drink more frequently, and also for healthcare professionals to know when one of their patients wasn’t drinking regularly enough. During my research, I was surprised by how many people suffered from dehydration, and how it contributed to many common health conditions such as urinary tract infections, memory loss and confusion. Whilst my Gran was in hospital, I noticed how difficult it was for her to keep herself hydrated. As part of my research into Droplet, I visited hospitals and care homes where I saw patients and residents struggling to use the standard crockery. The drinking aids being used were unfamiliar and unappealing.
New Designers Show
I showcased Droplet® at the New Designers Show in London in 2015, which is where Spearmark Health became part of the Droplet story.
Spearmark asked me to join their Innovation team, which has enabled Droplet to evolve into the product it is today.
Droplet has been developed in partnership with over 100 healthcare professionals within the NHS and Social sectors, including Speech and Language Therapists, Occupational Therapists, Dieticians, Geriatric Consultants, Matrons, Dementia Support Managers, Infection Control Nurses, Housekeepers, Stroke Nurses, Catering Managers and many more. We have also carried out user feedback sessions with The Alzheimer’s Society, The Stroke Association, care homes in Peterborough and The Hospital Caterers Association. Droplet is suitable for use at home or in care homes and hospitals. Droplet can help people of any age from children to the elderly – to encourage them to drink more.
“My mum has always been so independent and able to cope, so it was quite frightening when she became so unwell. I could tell by her voice that she really wasn’t coping and that she wasn’t aware herself how badly she was coping. It was quite a new phenomenon for us really. As a non-medical person, it’s not really something you think about or know about. When somebody’s dehydrated you don’t know; they just become more disorientated, more vague and appear to be getting poorly but without any obvious symptoms that make you think perhaps I should get a doctor. You just can’t put your finger on it and that makes it hard to know what to do. Once we had identified that she was dehydrated it was remarkable to see how much of a difference drinking water could make.”
“I’d always been independent, then suddenly to find that you need the most basic help is very difficult. The worst moment was when I came home from hospital from my operation, went to the back door and I couldn’t open it. That’s when I realised that I needed help and I didn’t have any. It was also quite humiliating and frightening to find that you are disabled and unable to do things yourself. You don’t feel thirsty being dehydrated. You just gradually feel everything becoming blurred, less important and further away. The last thing you think is that you need a drop of water. I think that Droplet will be a companion. When you’re alone and on your own, to have something that’s your friend that will say ‘come on, come on’, just like your mother did.”