How Do Raised Toilet Seats Work ?

by | Beginners Info, Personal Hygiene, Safety

Until you spend time someone with mobility issues you probably won’t ever come into contact with a raised toilet seat, or for that matter have any idea what they do. It’s as my parents caregiver that I first started to learn about them. There are a number of types, and they work in very different ways, and to my mind with varying degrees of success.

How do raised toilet seats work ? A raised toilet seat is a device which is either fitted onto, or above, the seat or bowl, of a toilet. The raised toilet seat makes it easier for a person to sit down onto the seat, or stand back up, from it, by reducing the distance.

Raised toilet seats are meant as a toilet aid for anybody with –

  • mobility issues
  • joint problems
  • a lack of strength in the legs and hips
  • people who are recovering from hip, or knee, replacement surgery
  • very frail people

It is very common for the elderly to use them in some form.

My introduction to them came prior to my mother having hip replacement surgery some 18 months ago, and I saw one in the flesh for the first time, and was rather underwhelmed at the build quality.

Knowing that my mom was going to have to have some aid of this type for the toilet, we had, in the first instance, purchased a seat which locked onto the bowl with a few plastic bolts.

You simply lifted up the seat and lid of the toilet, and then pushed the white, tire like form, down over the rim of the toilet bowl. And after that  tightened a plastic kind of bolt on each side, securing it to the toilet bowl.

I tested it, and instantly thought that it was completely inadequate for the needs of a 90 year old lady post-hip surgery, and my mom wouldn’t even sit down on it, as she thought it was just too unsafe.

We then bought a portable bedside commode, which is a fully adjustable metal frame with a removable potty, and a seat with a lid.

Much to my mom’s delight, we discovered that it was way higher than our toilet, and could be placed above the bowl at varying heights, once the potty part of the commode had been removed.

I was later thrilled to see that in the hospital they were using a similar frame over the toilet after my mom’s surgery, and that mom, and I, received full instructions from the nurses and physical therapist, on how to correctly and safely use it.

My mom still uses the portable commode over the toilet, and we have been able to adjust the height for her, slowly lowering it as she got stronger.

It has big armrests and a frame that she can easily hold onto, to guide herself back into position. My mom has issues with eye sight and balance to contend with, and so she finds the frame helps her with these.

What are the different types of raised toilet seats, and how do you install them ?

What I think most people consider to be a raised toilet seat is a large white tire-like piece of plastic which is somehow attached to the bowl of the toilet.

These can be divided into two types – those where you use your own toilet seat, and those where the seat is totally removed and not used again.

Let’s start with those you use your existing seat and lid –

Risers

These oval ring-shaped blocks of plastic which come in a range of heights from 2 to 4 inches.

The riser will raise your toilet seat by the the amount of its height.

Risers are extremely solid as they are bolted onto the toilet using your existing bolt holes through which the seat and lid are attached – going under your existing seat.

To install –

  • first remove the seat and lid from your toilet
  • align the holes in the riser to the existing bolt holes on your toilet
  • place your toilet seat and lid on top of the riser and make sure all the holes line up
  • take the new extra long bolts which came with the riser and thread them through and attach the nuts to the bolts on the underside of the toilet
  • never over tighten the nuts to the bolts, as the toilet is ceramic and can break

A few other points to consider –

  • risers can have a hinge in them just as seats do, making it possible to lift and clean underneath them
  • I am not aware of a riser with adjustable height, but there are risers with adjustable arms
  • you must check whether your toilet is standard, or elongated, before you buy a riser, and buy the corresponding model

Some examples of these risers are –

  • Nova 3 1/2 inch toilet seat riser
  • Maddak 4 inch hinged seat riser
  • Maddak 3 1/2 inch toilet seat riser with safety arms

Risers are very solid, and with arms and a grab bar on the wall next to the toilet, they are a safe option, in my opinion, for people who are quite strong and still have relatively good balance.

Clip On seats/risers

As the name would suggest, these are toilet seats which simply clip into your existing toilet seat.

They are not a complete circle, or oval, but have a small opening at the front end – like a horse shoe, or a letter “C”.

This allows the user to push these ends together, and to then lower the inner edge of the “clip-on” seat into the opening in their toilet seat.

When let go, the two open ends of the “clip-on” pull apart again, and the new seat clips onto your toilet seat.

There are no bolts, no clamps, or locks, the seat is supposed to hold itself in place through tension.

You are going to want to be very careful with checking the weight limit on these seats to avoid accidents.

Some examples of this are –

  • Ability Suprtstore 4 inch Clip On Raised Toilet Seat
  • Performance Health Novelle 4 inch Clip On Raised Toilet Seat

There are no armrests, so there is nothing to hold onto if you are frail, not supple, or have any balance issues.

These are seats which replace your existing toilet seat

Seats with spacers, or “Tall Seats”

The seats have small spacers on their under side, and come in 2 inch, or 3 inch high models.

To install –

  • remove the existing toilet seat and lid of your toilet
  • place the new seat and lid in the same position as the old one
  • re-attach the seat with bolts using the existing holes

The seats are available –

  • with or without lids
  • can be open or closed at the front
  • do not have armrests
  • the height is not adjustable
  • will have weight capacities you will need to check

 

Due to the lack of armrests, I again wouldn’t suggest these as viable for anyone who is less than strong and with good balance, unless you have grab bars, or a toilet safety frame, to help the person backing up to the toilet to sit, and to hold onto when they get up again.

If you do get this for someone, don’t have them use it if their feet are dangling in the air, or their toes only are touching the floor, as they won’t have proper balance when they stand up, and there are no handles for support.

An example of one these seats is –

  • Centoco 3L440STS-001 raised toilet seat with lid

Elevated or raised seats

Elevated or raised seats are like a  riser and seat combined.

The seats come in 2 inch, 3 inch, 3 1/2 inch, 4 inch, 5 inch and 6 inch models, depending on the type and brands.

There are varying systems for attaching these seats to the toilet bowl.

Bubble seats – this is a type of seat which simply slots onto the toilet.

To install –

  • remove your toilet seat and lid
  • place the bubble seat over the rim of your toilet and push down hard
  • it fits both elongated and standard toilets

The seat is made of a compressed foam and grips the frame.

Examples of this type of seat are –

The NRS Comfort raised toilet seat

Herdegen Contact Plus 5 inch raised toilet seat

Yunga Tart 4 3/4 inch raised toilet seat

The seats  –

  • are not adjustable in height
  • have no armrests
  • have no bolts, clamps or locks to fix them to the toilet bowl
  • have a weight capacity

Once again without armrests and, in this case no bolts or fixings to speak of at all, I certainly wouldn’t use this for my elderly loved ones, not even with a safety frame. 

Seats with side fixings – another type of elevated, or raised, toilet seat uses side fixings – a type of bolt clamp – to grip the bowl on either side towards the rear of the seat, and at the front there is usually a bracket.

To install –

  • remove the toilet seat and lid from your toilet
  • place the elevated seat over the rim of your toilet bowl
  • insert the fixing bolts into the slots on the side and tighten

These seats are –

  • bought with or without lids
  • not adjustable in height
  • have no armrests
  • standard or elongated
  • for different weight capacities

Examples of this system are –

Aquasense 4 inch raised toilet seat with lid

Vaunn Medical Clamp-on 4 inch raised toilet teat

Carex 4 1/2 inch raised toilet seat

Homecraft Savanah 2, 4, 6 inch raised toilet seats with, or without lids

As with all seats without arms, I would only recommend these for people who have good balance, and don’t use a height that has the user’s feet in the air, or with just the toes touching, as this can lead to a fall when getting up.

I think that a toilet safety frame, or grab bars, again would be a good addition to make it all a bit safer, and to give the person support as they stand up, or sit down.

Front locking systems – front locking seats have a clamp at the front of the seat with a knob, and the sides go down a few inches on the inside edge. On the back there is also a lip which is to be placed under the inside edge of the toilet bowl rim to give added stability.

They come in a range of heights, depending on the brand, from 4 – 5 inches.

To install –

  • remove the existing seat, and lid, from your toilet if it is in your way
  • place the seat over the toilet and into the bowl
  • guide the back of the seat into the toilet so that the lip at the back goes under the rim of the toilet
  • line the seat up to where you would like it
  • tighten the knob on the front, and the seat is clamped on to the bowl

A few other points to consider –

  • most of these seats have armrests
  • some armrests are adjustable
  • some armrests are removable
  • the seats all have weight capacities
  • the seats are compatible with almost all types of toilet

Some examples of this type –

Carex E-Z Lock 5 inch raised toilet seat with arms
Medokare 4.5 inch raised toilet seat with arms
Vive 5 inch raised toilet seat with padded handle
Drive Medical Premium raised toilet seat with lock and padded armrests

Of all the elevated and raised toilet seats the front locking are apparently the most solid.

The fact that they have armrests means that you have something to grab onto before you sit back.

If there was a grab bar next to the toilet as well, I think that this is a a good system for all but the most elderly and frail.

Safety frames with raised seats

A safety frame is a metal frame – aluminum or steel – with an integrated raised seat, which you can easily place over the toilet – not to be confused with toilet safety frames which are only a frame to hold onto when you use the toilet.

To install –

  • put the seat and lid on your toilet in the upright position
  • place the frame over your toilet

A few points to consider –

  • the height on all models is adjustable
  • the width on some models is adjustable
  • the weight capacity is greater than on the plastic clamp on seats
  • there are bariatric frames for heavier people
  • you can get mechanized frames or toilet lifts which assist in sitting and standing
  • all the frames have armrests and some are adjustable – they are larger and more sturdy than on the plastic clamp on seats
  • the frame takes the weight not the plastic seat

Some examples of frames are –

Maddak Tall-Ette elevated toilet seat with legs 

PCP raised toilet seat and safety frame 2-in-1

MOBB elevated toilet seat and frame

Aidapt President raised toilet seat and frame 

Lattice commode toilet seat and frame 

Some examples of toilet lifts –

The Uplift Commode

Easy Access Tilt Toilet lift (this model is slightly different as it doesn’t have the frame on the floor, but it is secured to the toilet in a way that it won’t come off)

The Liftseat Powered Toilet Lift

The Drive Solo Lift with Arms

 

If you are at all worried about the physical capacities of your loved ones and aren’t sure about their balance, strength or mobility, I wouldn’t hesitate to get them a frame with a raised seat, instead of one of the other types.

If you are the caregiver to someone who is very frail, or who has a muscular  condition which makes movement extremely difficult, and painful, you may want to look at the toilet lifts.

The first two toilet lifts are a lot more accessible in terms of price, than the latter two, which are very sophisticated and pricey pieces of equipment.

Portable bedside commodes

Now to my mom’s favorite, the portable bedside commode.

The portable bedside commode is also known as a 3-in-1 commode, or as an all-in-1 commode.

It is a metal chair frame with a toilet seat and a potty, which can be

(a) placed at the bedside, to be used as a commode,

(b)  over and around the toilet as a safety frame to hold onto when you sit down, or get up, or

(c) as a frame with a raised toilet seat 

To install as a raised toilet seat –

  • place the existing toilet seat and lid of your toilet in the upright position
  • remove the potty from the commode
  • for the tightest fit remove the backrest
  • place the commode over the toilet with its seat on

Some other points to consider –

  • you can adjust the height
  • you can adjust the width
  • you can adjust the armrests on some
  • you have bariatric commodes for heavier people
  • you have transfer commodes with wheels

Some examples of this type of commode are –

Drive Medical heavy duty bariatric commode

Drive Medical steel folding bedside commode 

UltraCommode bedside commode

This is pretty much perfect, in my opinion, for an elderly person who needs a bit of assistance with their balance, and who doesn’t have great mobility. 

How to clean raised toilet seats ?

To clean the plastic elevated and raised toilet seats –

  • use a non-abrasive cleaner, or detergent, and warm water to wash down your seat
  • rinse the seat well and wipe off with a non-abrasive cloth
  • if you seat has any grips or plastic parts on any armrest, make sure that it is still firmly in place and doesn’t rotate
  • check around any fixings, clamps or other locking mechanisms, to make sure that there are no cracks each time you clean

To clean a frame or commode

  • start by removing the seat lid and splashguard and cleaning them one by one
  • make sure to pay particular attention to the armrests and seat, as this is where the body has the most contact
  • the underside of the seat, the metal bracket holding the splashguard and the splash guard are the areas which can get soiled, so they have to be throughly cleaned
  • rinse and wipe off with a dry cloth
  • then clean the frame and wipe and dry it off
  • check that the seat is not cracking anywhere
  • clean the plastic parts with a non-abrasive cleaner, or detergent, and warm water
  • rinse and wipe off with a non-abrasive cloth

What’s the best raised seat for after hip or knee replacement surgery ?

This again depends  on the age of the person in question.

For an elderly parent who is frail, elderly, or both, I would only consider a safety frame with a raised seat, or a portable bedside commode.

I wouldn’t use raised toilet seats which are not attached strongly to the toilet and which don’t have armrests to help with coordination when sitting and standing.

If you already have grab bars on the wall by your toilet, then a strong front locking raised toilet seat with armrests may be enough.

It is also a good idea, in the first weeks after the operation, to use a walker in addition to the raised seat.

That way, your parent has something to hold onto when they are standing, and backing up to the toilet, and secondly, they can transfer their weight from the toilet armrests over to the walker.

It is also very important for the person having the surgery, and for their caregiver, to learn how to sit down and to stand up after the surgery. If they can do this properly it will avoid unfortunate strains, or injuries. 

I’m Gareth and I’m the owner of Looking After Mom and Dad.com

I have been a caregiver for over 10 yrs and share all my tips here.

Gareth Williams

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How do a raised toilet seats work ?
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A raised toilet seat is a device which is either fitted onto, or above, the seat or bowl, of a toilet. The raised toilet seat makes it easier for a person to get down onto the seat, or back up, from it, by reducing the distance. This is an outline of the various types and how to use them.
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Lookingaftermomandad.com