When To Use A Commode ?

by | Beginners Info, Personal Hygiene, Safety

If you have read any of my other articles about raised toilet seats, or bedside commodes, you will know by now that my mom has been using hers now for around 21 months and is still in love with it. We first set it up for her in her room, and then over the toilet in the bathroom as a raised toilet seat, and it has worked a charm !

When to use a commode ? Any individual who is bed bound, or not strong and mobile enough to walk to the toilet without help should consider using a bedside commode. Bedside commodes may also be used over a toilet as a raised toilet seat for elderly adults, disabled or fragile individuals who need support when sitting on a toilet.

A portable commode chair is a toilet which does not have running water, and which can be moved around to different locations. It is, simply put, a chair with a potty, or pale, under the seat which may be removed and emptied.

If the user can get out of bed by themselves, but not walk too far, a portable commode will grant them a little independence, and the ability to go to the toilet in private with, or without, assistance.

There is the option of using disposable bags which line the commode bucket, and which are easily disposed of without any clean-up required.

Or, for those who prefer, the contents of the bucket, or pale, is emptied down the toilet, and the bucket is then washed and disinfected.

Portable commodes chairs have few different names –

  • bedside commodes
  • commodes chairs 
  • 3-in-1 commodes
  • all-in-one commodes
  • folding commodes
  • portable commodes
  • transfer commodes
  • rolling commodes
  • transport commodes
  • shower commodes
  • bariatric commodes

All of these portable commode chairs can be used by the bed as a toilet, and some can also be used over the toilet. A few of these also have multiple functions.

Commode chairs, when used in the bedroom, are generally for individuals who cannot walk to the toilet, but who can get out of bed to sit on a commode chair, with, or without, help.

Bedside commodes are also often used by the elderly at night when it is more dangerous for them to make their way to the bathroom on their own, even if they can walk it is often safer to use a bedside commode and so avoid any falls.

Specific commodes exist called transfer commodes, which are for individuals who are either bed bound and have to slide over from the bed to the commode, or for wheelchair users.

If an individual is unable to slide over from the bed to a transfer commode, they may also be transferred to a bedside commode with the use of a patient lift.

What are the main types of portable commode chair

The most common types of portable commode –

  • bedside/portable commodes
  • drop arm bedside commodes
  • transport or rolling bedside commodes
  • combination shower chair, transport chair and bedside commode

All of these may come in padded, folding, bariatric (for larger individuals), lightweight or extra wide versions.

I am not going to go into too much detail here about the different types as I have an article all about the different types of commode chair here, in which I explain fully the different purposes of each type, and who may need to use which specific type, depending on their personal needs.

I have a second article, in which I list the weight capacities of all raised toilet seats and bedside commodes that I have managed to find, with over 180 different models, and which will be of particular use to those of you who are searching for a commode for a larger individual. You can find that article here. I am constantly updating the list as I discover new models of commode, or raised seat to add to it.

Bedside commodes – portable

Certain portable bedside commodes due to their versatility have also been named “3-in-1” and “All-in-one” commodes.

The 3 intended uses of a bedside commode  – hence the name 3-in-1 commode – are as

  • a bedside commode
  • over the toilet as raised seat
  • a safety frame around a toilet for support

The 3-in-1 commode is a static chair with a seat and lid, and under which is placed a removable potty or pale.

This is the type of commode that we bought for my mom, and we have also used it as a seat when I, or nurses needed to sponge bathe her after a hip replacement, or to put on pressure stockings. If you have a large enough shower it can also be used as a shower chair, if you have a waterproof model.

The following are all examples of bedside commodes, even though they have quite different names and descriptions –

300 lb –  Carex folding bedside commode, Prod. No. B341-00

300 lb –  Platinum Health UltraCommode bedside commode and folding shower chair, Prod. No. Unavailable

340 lb –  Aidapt Essex height adjustable commode, Prod. No. VR161G

350 lb –  Drive Medical steel folding bedside commode, Prod. No. RTL11158KDR

400 lb –  Lumex imperial collection 3-in-1 bedside commode, Prod. No. 7446A-2

400 lb – TFI Healthcare wide 3-in-1 commode w/ elongated seat, Prod. No. 3224G

650 lb –  Drive folding bariatric commode, Prod. No. 11117N-1

650 lb –  Probasics bariatric commode extra wide seat, Prod. No. BSB24C

650 lb –  TF1 3244 Extra tall, wide commode w/ elongated seat, Prod. No. 3244

700 lb –  TF1 3240 Extra large bedside commode w/ elongated seat, Prod. No. 3240

Drop arm bedside commodes

The drop arm bedside commode is a specific type of commode which has movable arms to allow a person to access from the side, just like with a transfer commode the user can slide over from a bed, or a wheel chair, onto the commode.

Drop arm commodes are not as wide as transfer commodes, and are easier to move around.

A drop arm commode can give a caregiver access to the user from the side, rather than being blocked by the armrests of the commode, which can help if you have to clean your loved one.

The drop arm models can be used in the same way as the 3-in-1 commode  –

  • a bedside commode
  • a toilet safety frame
  • a raised toilet seat over your toilet

The models can be bariatric, extra wide or padded etc like the other bedside commodes.

Here are just a few examples which demonstrate the different types that exist –

300 lb –  Drive Medical deluxe steel drop arm commode, Prod. No. 11125KD-1

300 lb –  Drive Medical drop arm commode with wheels with padded armrests, Prod. No. 11101W-2

300 lb –  Lumex drop arm 3-in-1 commode, Prod. No. 6433A

300 lb –  Performance Health adjustable drop arm commode, Prod. No. 081512839

700 lb –  Performance Health heavy-duty commode w/ elongated seat, Prod. No. 081261767

700 lb –   Performance Health drop arm all-in-one commode, Prod. No. 081110287

As you can see they may also come with wheels, as certain transport commodes may also be drop arm bedside commodes.

Transport or rolling bedside commodes

Bedside commodes on wheels.

Transport or rolling commodes can be used as –

  • a transport chair
  • a bedside commode
  • or placed over the toilet as a raised toilet seat

If you are the caregiver to an elderly parent, or disabled person with mobility problems, a transport commode can be extremely helpful.

You can also use the transport chair as a raised toilet seat, and if you remove the pale, you can push the chair with your loved one into position over the toilet – this greatly reduces clean up afterwards, and really helps to reduce a lot of odors from building up in the bedroom.

 

Always make sure the wheels are locked when the commode is in use as a toilet, to avoid accidents when getting on and off.

Transport or rolling bedside commode examples

Here are a few examples of transport commodes to demonstrate the different ways they are referred to, and also the variety you can find –

250 lb –  Nova drop arm transport commode w/ wheels, Prod. No. 8805

300 lb –  Drive Medical drop arm commode with wheels with padded armrests, Prod. No. 11101W-2

300lb Lumex Versamode drop arm transport chair commode w/ 5″ wheels, Prod. No. 6810A

310 lb –  Mor Medical New Era PVC rolling commode chair, Prod. No. DNE-118-3TWL

Shower chair and bedside transport commodes

Some commode chairs are specifically designed for shower use, and can be wheeled into position. Of course you need a shower which doesn’t have a step, or a chair with wheels is redundant

Shower transport commodes can function as –

  • a shower chair
  • a transport chair
  • a commode
  • some can also be used over the toilet as a raised seat if they are height adjustable

Always lock the wheels when the chair is being used in a static position to avoid accidents.

The following are examples of the variety of models of shower chairs and bedside transport commodes –

250 lb –  Nova padded commode shower chair w/wheels, Prod. No. 8801

260 lb –  Tuffcare padded commode shower chair wheelchair, Prod. No. S970

275 lb –  Drive Medical aluminum rehab commode shower chair w/ 24″ wheels, Prod. No. NRS185006

300 lb –  Drive Medical padded commode shower chair w/wheels, Prod. No.11114-1

385 lb –  Mor Medical New Era PVC wide rolling shower commode chair w/ footrest, Prod. No. DNE-122-3TWL -SF

440 lb –  Healthline, Ezee Life heavy duty commode shower chair w/ 5″ casters, Prod. No. 186

600 lb – AcveAid heavy duty rolling commode shower chair, Prod.No. 720

How to set up a commode chair ?

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

So to set it up correctly –

  • swing out the legs in front, so the back and front legs are upright and standing with the front legs at 90 degrees to the backside of the commode
  • swing the commode pale holder into position until the two ends of the horizontal bar lock into place – in each of the front legs – they have spring loaded push buttons, which will pop out of the holes in two small joints coming off the inside edge of each of the two front legs  when they are pushed into place
  • when clicked together you will have formed the front bar of the seat holding the front of the chair together
  • if the back bar of the commode, which the lid rests against when it is up, is not assembled, pop that in place between the two back legs and make sure the buttons pop out of their holes when they click into position
  • if you are using disposable liners place them in the pale
  • place any absorbent pads in the liner of you are using one
  • slot the commode pale into position before you put the seat on
  • place the pale lid on the pale if you wish
  • clip the toilet seat onto the seat level back bar which has the pale holder on it
  • clip the seat lid onto the same bar and you can put the seat and lid down over the commode pale
  • adjust the height of the legs using the spring loaded push buttons to the desired height for the user
  • make sure the legs are all the same height and that they are properly locked in position – the spring-loaded buttons make a clicking sound when they pop out of the holes properly
  • now place the commode where you wish it to be used
  • if you are not using disposable liners you will want to now pour about 3 inches of water into the commode bucket to help with odor control and cleaning after it has been used

If the commode has come unfolded and the frame is assembled –

  • if you are using disposable liners place them in the pale
  • place any absorbent pads in the liner of you are using one
  • place the pale in its holder
  • clip on the seat and lid to the seat level back bar which has the pale holder attached to it
  • adjust the height of the legs as desired using the spring-loaded push buttons
  • make sure the buttons pop out fully – they will make a clicking sound
  • make sure the legs are all the same height to avoid accidents
  • place the commode where you wish to use it
  • if you are not using disposable liners you will want to now pour about 3 inches of water into the commode bucket to help with odor control and cleaning

How to keep a commode from tipping ?

To stop a bedside commode from tipping, there are really only a few solutions.

You can wedge the commode chair –

  • in the corner of the room against the walls and some furniture
  • or between the bed and the corner of the room
  • and remove any clutter that your loved one can trip on

But the best way is to make sure that your loved one knows how to sit down on a commode without it tipping, and that you know how to assist them in doing so.

To assist a loved one who can stand with a commode, you need to have them stand with their back to the commode.

A walker is a very good idea for anyone one who is unsteady as they can hold onto it while they back up to the commode. 

Your loved one should learn to –

  • back up to the bedside commode using the walker
  • stop as they feel the frame touching against the back of their legs
  • to lower any clothing
  • reach back and grab on to the armrests one arm at a time
  • to sit down on the commode once they have the armrests in their grip

Your loved one should only be sitting down on the commode by themselves if they are able to do so without risking injury.

How to help your loved one if they can’t clean themselves –

  • if your loved one is very unsteady they may need help to clean themselves
  • have all the provisions you need to hand before you start 
  • you need to have toilet paper, wet wipes (if you like) and gloves
  • start by putting on the gloves
  • assist your loved one to stand and to hold onto the walker
  • help clean, or clean, your loved one with the toilet paper or wet wipes
  • with women, it’s important to clean them from front to back to prevent UTI’s
  • after cleaning make sure that your loved one is gently dried with a soft towel
  • after they are dry, help your loved one to put any clothes back on
  • help your loved one back into the bed
  • dispose of all the waste into the outside trash
  • lastly remove and dispose of the gloves and wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water

Self Cleaning bedside commodes

Other than using a commode over a toilet, the easiest way of eliminating a lot of cleaning work is to use disposable commode liners.

The liners are placed in and over the pale, and can come with absorbent pads or powders – you will want these if you don’t want to have to deal with tipping any urine down the toilet. The pads or powders have gelling agents which soak up any liquid in a matter of seconds.

Popular brands of disposable commode liners –

  • Bearals – with or without absorbent pads
  • Better Moments – without absorbent pads
  • CareBag – with absorbent pads
  • Carex – with absorbent powder
  • Medline  – with absorbent pads
  • Medustry -with absorbent powder
  • Reynard – with absorbent pads
  • Sani Bag – with absorbent gelling agent
  • Sani Care – without absorbent pads
  • TidyCare – with or without absorbent pads

My mom uses Carebag commode liners when we are not using the commode as a raised toilet seat, and has been perfectly happy with those.

Never try to flush these liners down the toilet as they will block it.

You can dispose of the bags in your landfill trash as they are designed for that.

How do you use a disposable commode liner ?

To use disposable commode liners –

 

  • take the liner and place it over the commode pale and push the inside of the liner down to the bottom of the pale
  • if you are using the absorbent pad or powder, put it into the bottom of the liner 
  • place the pale under the commode seat for use
  • once the commode has been used, remove the liner and pull the draw strings and make a knot
  • if the liner has a sticky seal, stick that down as well
  • if the liner does not have a sticky seal, make a knot with the top if the liner
  • dispose of the liner immediately in the outside trash destined for landfill

 

If you are using disposable liners, but without the absorbent elements –

 

  • place the liner over the pale and push it down to the bottom of the pale
  • after it has been used tip the contents of the liner down the toilet
  • you can now rinse the liner if you wish
  • take the used empty liner and put it into the outside trash destined for landfill

What about bedside odor control ?

One of the major drawbacks of having a bedside commode in a room where a person sleeps is the problems with odor control. The odors are going to be absorbed into the surfaces of all the materials around the room.

To help control these odors you are going to need to –

 

  • open windows to air as frequently as possible
  • regularly wash the bed covers and curtains and any other blankets or cloths in the room – adding white vinegar to the wash can help with removing odors
  • spray your curtains with Lysol, Dettol or OdoBan
  • spray the mattress with Lysol, Dettol or OdoBan
  • note that when spraying with Lysol people must leave the room for 45 minutes after spraying so the spray can dissipate, as it is harmful to breathe it in
  • when you have sprayed with Lysol, no wipe down is needed afterwards
  • use air purifiers such as HEPA filters
  • you can place lavender bags or cedar in the room as well to cover smells, but it is not as good as removing them
  • if you can afford it, have a builder drill out a hole in the exterior wall and fit a simple bathroom extractor fan – you can get these for around 35$ + the cost of labour for fitting

Dispose of all waste products and cleaning products immediately –

 

  • don’t leave used toilet paper, trash, or wipes in the room – get them in the outside trash immediately
  • if you want to separate them, toilet paper can go down the toilet, but not the wipes, they must go in the outside trash
  • always clean the trash can which holds any of the waste toilet paper and wipes, and sprinkle with baking soda after cleaning as it absorbs smells
  • if you have any spillages or splashes in the room they have to be cleaned up immediately or the smells will just linger – always use a disinfectant for this to stop the spread of bacteria – and whatever is used to clean up should be thrown in the outside trash immediately
  • if you put down any kind of incontinence bed pad on the floor under the commode – tape it down – it’s easy enough to rip it up and put down another when spills occur, and it saves on time spent cleaning
  • the longer any soiled toweling or paper hangs around, the longer the surfaces and materials in the room have to absorb the odors

Do you put water in a bedside commode ?

If you are not using disposable commode liners there will a lot more of the toilet odors to contend with.

You are going to have to carry the pale with the urine and feces from the bedroom, or wherever else the commode is being used, through to the bathroom, which will spread the odors around the house.

One of the best ways of cutting down on the odors is to put 2 or 3 inches of water into the commode pale each time before it is used.

The water will keep the feces covered and stop the odors being released into the air, to a certain degree.

In addition to the water, you can add products which will both scent the water, and provide a film which further inhibits the release of the odors.

Do not, though, put bleach into the water as it can do two things –

  • combine with urine to form chlorine gas which is bad for the lungs
  • when the user urinates the bleach can splash up and get on their private parts causing nasty skin irritations

Popular products you can put in the water –

 

  • Poo Pourri which is also used in toilets
  • lavender essential oil
  • peppermint essential oil
  • listerine mouthwash

Can a bedside commode be used over a toilet ?

A lot of the portable commode chairs that I have been describing can be used over an actual toilet as a raised toilet seat, as well as a bedside commode, which when it is possible, avoids all the unpleasant clean up afterwards.

If you wish to set up a commode over a toilet you will –

  

  • remove the commode pale from its holder
  • depending on the depth of your toilet, from front to back, you may wish to remove the backrest from your commode as it may be a bit to far forward without doing so – you just push the buttons in and pull the back rest out
  • you can either remove your existing toilet seat or just pop it into the upright position
  • adjust the height of the commode legs so they are tall enough to go over the toilet bowl
  • to adjust the length of the commode leg, you push in the spring-loaded buttons on the legs, and either pull the legs down to lengthen the leg, or push them up to shorten the leg
  • the legs must be of equal length for stability and safety
  • take care that all the spring-loaded buttons have properly popped out of the holes when you’ve set the height, they should make a clicking sound as they lock into position
  • don’t make the commode so high that your loved ones feet don’t touch the floor when they are seated, as this can lead to accidents when they try to stand up from the commode
  • once the legs are at the right height, place the commode over the toilet
  • to close off the space between the seat of the commode and the toilet bowl rim, you can use the splashguard which came with your commode
  • the splashguard slots into the same place as does the pale when you are not using the commode 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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When to use a commode ?
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Any individual who is bed-bound, or not strong and mobile enough to walk to the toilet without help should consider using a bedside commode. Bedside commodes may also be used over a toilet as a raised toilet seat for elderly adults and disabled, or fragile, individuals who need support when sitting on a toilet.
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