When Should You Get A Bedside Commode ?


If anyone is hesitant about getting a bedside commode for an elderly loved one, or for anyone who has problems with mobility, I would encourage them to go ahead get one. My mom, who is 91 years old, has had one for the last two years. It has been incredibly practical, especially at night when she gets up, very stiff and in a bit of a daze, multiple times, to use the toilet. It has made going to the toilet a lot safer and easier for her.

It’s time to get a bedside commode when you are having difficulties using your normal toilet due to any issues with mobility, balance, sitting and standing, or frailty, and if a bedside commode would be easier and safer for you to use.

I would suggest that the main reasons for needing to get a bedside commode would be firstly safety, and secondly an individual’s comfort.

Independence and dignity are more reasons to get a bedside commode, which may not be obvious to caregivers at first

If an elderly loved one is unable to use the toilet on their own and is having to ask for assistance, it may be that with a bedside commode they are perfectly able to go to the toilet by themselves, in private, and regain a little of their independence. And this will help to restore some of their sense of dignity as well.

Nobody likes to have to share these intimate moments with others, if they don’t have to, and as they get older losing their independence is probably quite terrifying and soul-destroying, so any little thing we can do to restore it makes life more enjoyable.

Of course, when a person is either, no longer safe from injury using the toilet on their own, or is in a lot of discomfort when they have to sit or stand on the toilet in their home, it is time to consider a bedside commode.

For those who individuals may be bedridden, or a wheelchair user, due to illness, injury or disability, a bedside commode is always going to be a very good option for them to improve their experience of using a toilet – and I will be looking at what the options are for such those individuals in a moment.

If you want to read more about the reasons for using a bedside commode, you will find a full development of these points in my article on “Reasons for using a bedside commode” which you can read here.


Here’s a list of some situations where a person would benefit from having a bedside commode at their disposal in the home –


  • if a person is bedridden
  • if a person is a wheelchair user
  • if a person cannot walk to the toilet on their own
  • if it takes a person too long to get to the toilet in time
  • if a person requires a safety frame to be able to use the toilet due to frailty, mobility, balance issues, confidence etc
  • if a person needs a raised toilet seat to help them sit and stand on the toilet
  • if a person makes frequent trips at night to the toilet but is becoming unsafe to do so
  • if a person has had a hip or knee replacement, or any other surgery which makes sitting and standing difficult and risks injury
  • if a person is not asking for help at night when they need the toilet and waiting until morning


If you want to read more about the reasons for using a bedside commode, you will find a full development of these points in my article on “Reasons for using a bedside commode” which you can read here.

What is a bedside commode ?


A bedside commode is a portable chair toilet which does not use running water, that can be placed wherever it is needed.

The commode a chair frame with a container, under a toilet seat, which may be removed and emptied after use.


Static (no wheels) portable bedside commodes come in different types –


  • bedside commodes
  • commode chairs
  • drop arm commodes
  • stacking commode
  • 3-in-1 commodes
  • all-in-one commodes
  • folding commodes
  • bariatric commodes


There are also bedside commodes which have wheels, and which like some static portable commodes have multiple functions.


Rolling bedside commodes –


  • transport commodes
  • shower chair transport commodes


If an individual is to stand from a bed, or they are a wheelchair user, there are static commodes called transfer commodes, which allows transfer from the side, rather than the front, allowing the user to move onto it by sliding over from the bed or wheelchair.

Another type of bedside commode which allows side access, but without the width of a transfer commode, is a “drop arm commode”.

The drop arm commode does not have fixed armrests, allowing them to be raised, lowered, or in some cases removed, giving the commode user side access, as well as front access.

Most types of bedside commode will actually have models which have drop arms as an extra feature.


The most versatile of the static bedside commodes is the 3-in-1, or All-in-One, which is designed to be used in three ways –


  • as a bedside commode
  • as raised toilet seat (over a toilet)
  • as a toilet safety frame (over a toilet)


3-in-1 commodes very often come with drop arms.

Lastly, there is the bariatric or heavy duty commode, which is and isn’t really a commode type on its own.

The standard bedside commode can support up to 350 lb.

Most types of commode will have bariatric versions of their bedside commode models, which don’t look much different, except they take more weight.

But there are also bigger, wider bedside commodes which have seats which are far larger and much stronger steel tubing for the frame. These look nothing like your standard bedside commode and will support in some cases 1500 lb.

 If you want to learn more about the weight capacities of bedside commodes I have an article, in which I list the weight capacities of all bedside commodes that I have managed to find, with over 140 different models. I have listed the model numbers, as well as the weight capacity, to make it easier for you to find them. You can find that article here. I am constantly updating the list.

Bedside commode features


  • As well as bariatric commodes and drop arms, bedside commodes have a number of different features which models may have –
  • elongated seats – these are deeper from front to back than a standard seat to facilitate the user with cleaning themselves
  • open front seats – these open at the front of the seat to facilitate the user with cleaning themselves
  • extra wide seats – for individuals with larger thighs and hips, some models have wider seats for comfort
  • extra wide frames – for individuals with larger thighs and hips, some models have also increased the width of the frame as well as the seat for added comfort
  • padding – for those who do not enjoy sitting on hard plastic seat some commodes have nice soft padded seats

Here are some illustrations of the different types of bedside commode, including the rolling commodes.


Bedside commodes – portable


Static folding bedside commode

static stacking bedside commodes

3 in 1 bedside commode

Drop arm bedside commodes

Drop arm bedside commodes

Transport or rolling bedside commodes

Attendant Transport Commode Chair - with 4 equally sized wheels

Self-propelled Transport Commode Chair

Shower chair and bedside transport commodes

Attendant shower chair transport bedside commodes

Self-propelled shower chair transport bedside commodes

If you are looking for a full description and uses for all the different types of bedside commodes with specific examples of each type and which one best suits your needs, how to stop them from tipping, how to help a person sit in one correctly, and tips for cleaning, then you can find out about that here.

How to set up a bedside commode chair ?


If you have to assemble the portable commode yourself, you will find that the commode bucket platform is generally folded down against the back side of the commode when it arrives, and the front legs are folded in against the pale holder.


So to set it up correctly –


  • position two free legs in the front on the right and the left, so the back and front legs are upright and standing, with the front legs at 90 degrees to the backside of the commode
  • pull up the bucket platform front bar into position and lock the two loose ends of the bar in place – one in each of the front legs – the bar has a spring-loaded push button at each end, which will pop out of the holes in the small joint coming off the inside edge of each of the two front legs, as they are pushed into place
  • when you have put that together, you will have put the bucket platform in place and joined all the legs together
  • if the back bar of the commode, which the lid and seat rest against when they are upright, is not assembled, pop that in place across the top of the two back legs, and as always, make sure the push buttons pop out of the holes properly when they click into position
  • if you are using disposable liners, place them in the commode bucket
  • put the absorbent pad in the disposable liner if you are using one
  • drop the commode bucket into position in the bucket platform
  • put the lid on the bucket if you wish
  • attach the toilet seat onto back bar of the bucket platform
  • attach the seat lid to the same bar, and you can put the seat and lid down over the commode bucket
  • adjust the height of the seat using the spring-loaded push buttons on the legs
  • make sure the legs are all set to the same height, and that they are locked in position – the  buttons make a clicking sound when they snap out of the holes correctly
  • place the bedside commode where it will be used
  • if you don’t use disposable liners, you should put about 3 inches of water into the commode bucket to help keep down the odors and to make cleaning easier after use


If the commode comes with, the frame is assembled –


  • if you are using disposable commode liners, place one in the bucket
  • put an absorbent pad in the commode liner if you are using one
  • place the bucket in the bucket platform
  • clip the seat and lid onto the seat back bar of the bucket platform
  • set the height of the legs using the spring-loaded push buttons
  • check that the legs are all the same height 
  • set the bedside commode where you wish to use it

Can a bedside commode be used over a toilet ?


Certain portable bedside commode chairs can be used over an actual toilet as a raised toilet seat, or as a toilet safety frame –


  • 3-in-1 bedside commodes
  • stacking bedside commodes with adjustable height legs
  • bariatric commodes


To set up a commode over a toilet, you will –


  • remove the bedside commode bucket from the bucket platform
  • put your existing lid and toilet seat into the upright position
  • adjust the height of the bedside commode legs, so they are high enough for the seat level of the bedside commode to be higher than the rim of the toilet bowl
  • to adjust the length of a bedside commode leg, you depress the spring-loaded button on the leg, and then you either pull the legs to lengthen, or push the leg up to shorten
  • the bedside commode legs must all be the same length for safety
  • check that all the spring-loaded buttons have properly come out of the holes – check for the clicking sound as they lock into position
  • if you set the bedside commode seat too high your loved one’s feet may not touch the floor when they are seated, this can lead to accidents so make sure their feet are on the floor
  • once the seat height is good, put the bedside commode over the toilet bowl
  • if you have the bedside commode seat 3 – 6 inches above the toilet bowl rim, you will want to close off the space with the splash guard which came with your commode
  • the splash guard fits into the bucket platform when you are using the bedside commode over a toilet


If you want to know more about using bedside commodes over toilets, I have an article in which I have listed almost 100 bedside commodes that you use as a raised toilet seats, along with their respective seat heights, to help you make a choice. The list includes all types of bedside commodes – 3 in 1 commodes, drop arm commodes, transport commodes, shower transport commodes and transfer commodes. You can find that article here – “Can a bedside commode be used over a toilet ?”

3 in 1 bedside commode installed over a toilet

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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