Buyer's Guide: Selecting the Right Commode
Independently getting to the bathroom, especially in the middle of the night, can be difficult for those with disabilities or limited mobility. They may be in too much pain while they walk, be at risk of falling on the way, or even struggle to make it to the bathroom in time.
A bedside commode is a safer alternative that can help them go to the bathroom without a caregiver's help and maintain their independence and dignity. In this guide, we'll go through everything you need to know about commodes so you can choose the best commode for you or your loved one.
What is a Commode?
A commode chair, sometimes referred to as a bedside commode or adult potty chair, is a portable, non-flushing toilet. Its portability allows it to be placed in a bedroom or closeby wherever needed, so the user doesn't have to travel to the bathroom.
Typically, a commode chair is made up of a lightweight frame with armrests and a toilet seat with a bucket below it. The bucket can be removed and cleaned after it's used.
Commode vs. Toilet
Sometimes, the word "commode" is used as a synonym for the word "toilet." However, in this case, they are not the same thing. A toilet is a permanent fixture in the bathroom that is hooked up to the building's plumbing. Toilets are filled with water and can be flushed after use. On the other hand, a commode chair is not hooked up to plumbing to be used anywhere. Rather than being flushed, commodes must be cleaned after use.
Who Should Use a Commode?
Because commodes can be placed anywhere, they make it possible to independently use the restroom without having to walk very far from your bed or chair. This can be a safer alternative to the bathroom toilet, which can sometimes be too dangerous to walk to and use without assistance or too far away to use in time.
Types of Commodes
Commodes can come in a range of sizes and with a variety of added features. But before you decide on the details, you'll want to narrow down your search to the type of commode that is best for you. There are four main types: 3-in-1 commodes, drop arm commodes, padded commodes, and bariatric commodes.
A 3-in-1 commode, sometimes referred to as an all-in-one commode, is the most versatile type. It can be used for a variety of functions, including:
- Bedside commode: This type of commode, of course, is portable and comes with a removable bucket and lid so that it can be used in the bedroom, etc.
- Toilet safety frame: In addition to the typical function of a commode, a 3-in-1 commode can also be placed over the toilet (with the bucket and lid removed) and function as a toilet safety frame. When used this way, the commode's frame's armrests serve as support rails to help you lower yourself onto and rise from the toilet.
- Raised toilet seat: A 3-in-1 commode placed over the toilet can also function as a raised toilet seat. Simply adjust the commode frame to the needed height above the usual height of the toilet. Typically, these commodes come with a "splash guard" that can be used in place of the commode bucket. Splash guards are like buckets without the bottom, allowing the waste to make it into the toilet but preventing a mess between the toilet and commode.
3-in-1 commodes can be a great way to save space and money if you'd benefit from all three of their functions. For instance, you may consider a 3-in-1 commode if you need a bedside commode during the night but only need a safety rail or raised toilet seat during the day. You may also benefit from this type of commode if you are recovering from surgery or an injury and will need a bedside commode at first but will eventually only need a toilet safety frame or raised toilet seat.
Drop Arm Commode
Drop arm commodes have armrests that fold down to make transferring onto and off of the commode easier. Many commodes come with this feature, as the drop arm function can help anyone with limited mobility.
Padded commodes add comfort to the commode seat (and sometimes to the armrests) to reduce pressure and pain when in use. This extra comfort can make all the difference for those who are thinner or more susceptible to skin tears and pressure sores. While standard commodes may seem easier to clean, padded commodes are made of non-absorbent materials like vinyl, which makes wiping down the seat simple.
Bariatric commodes are made of heavy-duty materials that are safe for users over 300 pounds. They may also have wider frames and seats to make seating less restrictive and, overall, more comfortable.
While these four types of commodes are the most common, you may also find commodes with features of multiple kinds if necessary. For instance, bariatric commodes can also be 3-in-1, drop arm, or padded commodes, just with bariatric users' essential stability. You may also find a padded 3-in-1 commode or a padded commode with drop arms.
Factors to Consider Before Purchasing a Commode
Once you've determined the type of commode you'd benefit from, it's time to consider other, more specific factors that will optimize the commode for you and your needs.
Always check the weight capacity to confirm that your commode of choice can safely support your weight. Most standard commodes can support up to 300 pounds. You may need a bariatric commode for additional stability and support, which can hold anywhere between 300 and 600 pounds depending on the model.
Your commode should be at a height that makes sitting down on, and getting up from it feel comfortable and natural. You should be able to sit down without "plopping" down onto it and get up without straining yourself too much, both of which can be dangerous and put you more at risk of falling. You should also be able to sit on the commode without adopting an unnatural position or having your feet dangling over the ground.
Because of this, it's best to purchase a commode that is height adjustable. Being able to adjust the commode's legs allows you to set the commode to a height that is most suitable for your individual needs.
You might also consider purchasing a commode with other adjustable features, such as an adjustable back or adjustable armrests. These added features allow for even more customizability to meet your own unique needs and sit comfortably.
Commode seats can come in different designs and sizes, which is also something to consider. For example, they may come in an oval shape, like a standard toilet seat, or a more elongated, square shape. Elongated seats are often better for larger users, as they can offer more support and comfort.
The seat you choose may or may not also have an opening in the front. An open-front seat can provide easier access for wiping. Still, it may not provide enough stability for larger users or users with limited control of their legs.
You'll also want to consider the seat's opening's size and ensure that it's not too big or too small for you. A larger opening may not provide enough support for a smaller user. In comparison, a smaller opening can be uncomfortable for a larger user.
Wheeled vs. No Wheels
This choice largely depends on the mobility status of the user. A wheeled commode can benefit users with minimal mobility who regularly need assistance from a caregiver. Wheeled commodes can easily be moved from room to room, and some can even function as transport or shower chairs. On the other hand, for users who only need a commode by their bed at night, a commode without wheels will work just fine.
Some commodes can be folded up into a more compact size. You might consider a folding commode if you want to move it from room to room or transport it elsewhere with ease, as they tend to be more lightweight than standard commodes. Folding commodes can also be stored away without taking up much space, such as in a closet or cupboard, when they aren't in use.
You might also want to consider the materials the commode frame is made of. Most often, commodes are made of aluminum or stainless steel. Aluminum is the more lightweight yet still durable option. On the other hand, stainless steel is heavier but much stronger and more supportive, making it the recommended choice for bariatric users.
In addition to the features, your commode will come equipped with; you can purchase commode accessories separately. These accessories can help make commode use or clean-up easier.
Bedside commode liners, or commode bags, are bags that can be placed inside the commode bucket. This makes waste disposal and clean-up much easier and more sanitary. It allows you to simply pull the bag out of the bucket, secure it closed, and throw it away. Some commode liners, like these Carex commode liners, may also feature a deodorizing agent to help prevent and reduce waste odors.
While most commodes will come with a bucket, you will want to eventually purchase a replacement commode bucket to keep the use of the commode sanitary. Some replacement buckets may come equipped with a lid to prevent waste from spilling and a handle for easy lifting. You may even consider purchasing a spare bucket to use when disinfecting the other bucket.
Toilet Paper Aid
A toilet paper aid is a great tool that allows commode users with limited arm or hand function to independently use the bathroom. Typically, these aids feature a clamp that the toilet paper can easily grab and wrap around. Toilet paper aids will also provide an extended reach for best positioning and pressure when wiping.
Splash guards help reduce messes by preventing waste from splashing outside of the toilet. If you plan to use your commode over the toilet and it does not come with a splash guard, you should consider buying one separately. You might also consider replacing your splash guard after a while to maintain cleanliness.
How to Use a Commode
How to Install a Commode:
- Choose the area that the commode will be needed, such as near the bed or over the toilet.
- Clear the area and the path to it of any clutter. The goal is to prevent falls and make it easy to get to in the middle of the night. Place the commode in a cleared space.
- Adjust the height of the seat for the user so that they can sit comfortably and correctly. They should be able to sit with their feet flat on the ground and their knees hip level. If the user has just had hip surgery, the seat may have to be slightly higher.
- Ensure that the commode sits securely on the ground and that it is level with all four feet adjusted to the same height. If the commode has wheels, ensure they are locked.
- If using as a bathroom commode and placing the commode over the toilet, remove the bucket. Install the splash guard in its place if necessary.
- Be sure to place toilet paper within reach.
To Use a Commode Yourself:
- Lift the commode lid.
- Stand in front of the commode seat, close enough that you can feel the seat behind your knees.
- Slowly lower yourself onto the seat, bending forward slightly at the waist and using both sides' armrests for support.
- When you've finished, place both hands on the armrests and slowly lift yourself using your legs. Push up with your arms on the armrests to stand.
How to Help Someone Use a Commode:
- Help the person out of bed or their seat and over to the commode.
- Have them stand in front of the commode seat with the seat behind their knees. Place their hands on both armrests. Help them lower themselves slowly onto the seat, placing a gentle hand on their lower back if needed.
- If it is safer for you to stay with them, do so. If not, have them call for you when they are done using the bathroom.
- When they've finished, have them place their hands on both armrests and slowly lift themselves, using their legs and arms to push up to a standing position. If necessary, place a gentle hand on their lower back to assist, but never pull them up by their arms.
- Put on disposable gloves. If the person needs you to, help them clean their genital area with toilet paper or a wipe. Help them wash their hands and return to bed.
- If the commode was used with its bucket, remove the bucket and empty it into the toilet. If a commode liner was used, pull the liner out, secure it shut, and throw it into the trash.
- Clean the bucket with a disinfectant, toilet brush, and water. Rinse well and return the bucket to the commode. Remove your gloves and dispose of them.
How to Keep a Commode Clean
- If you are not using a liner, put a small amount of water in the bucket before it is used. This can make cleaning easier.
- Empty the commode after each use. To empty a commode, place the lid on the bucket, remove the bucket and carry it to the toilet to dispose of its contents. You may also consider using a commode liner, which allows you to easily remove the liner from the bucket, secure it closed, and throw it into the trash.
- Clean the bucket after each use with a toilet cleaner, toilet brush, and water. Scrub and rinse it well before returning it to the commode. Regularly disinfect the bucket with a household disinfectant.
- Regularly wipe down and disinfect the frame and commode toilet seat, especially in the hinges and under the seat.
Are bedside Commodes Covered by Medicare?
Yes, Medicare will cover bedside commodes if you aren't able to use a regular toilet. To have your commode covered by Medicare, consult with your doctor, and have them assess whether a commode is necessary. If your doctors are enrolled in Medicare, they will order your commode for you. Typically, Medicare will cover about 80% of the commode's cost while you pay the other 20%.
About the Author
Stephanie Schwarten is a freelance writer and editor with a Bachelors degree in Professional Writing. She specializes in content marketing as well as both developmental and copy editing.
About Carex Health Brands
Carex is your one-stop shop for home medical equipment and for products that assist caregivers with providing the best possible support and care for their loved ones. Carex Health Brands has been the branded leader in in-home, self-care medical products for over 35 years. Our goal is to improve the lives of our customers by bring them quality products that bring dignity back to their lives. With our three nationally distributed brands, Carex Health Brands serves national, regional and independent food, drug and mass retailers along with wholesalers, distributors and medical dealers.
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