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Buying a Commode Chair? - Here’s What You Need to Know

Commodes play an important part in the lives of those whose physical condition makes it difficult to use the bathroom. People with certain disabilities, mobility issues, those who are ill or recovering from an operation may find them crucial pieces of equipment.

For many in these situations, making the trip to and from the bathroom may be impossible, necessitating the need for a commode. If your toilet is upstairs and for some reason you are confined to the ground floor, you may also be in need of one.

Essentially a commode chair is a portable toilet which has a removable pan which needs to be manually emptied after each use. This means that it requires a carer to undertake the emptying process.

There are various factors to consider before buying a commode, with a range of styles and options on the market. Essential Aids supplies numerous models, all with a long track record of quality manufacturing. Here we’ll run down some of the most popular.

Wooden ‘furniture’ commodes

Some of the most commonly found models for long-term domestic use are commodes which blend into the decor of the home. This makes them a discreet choice, in many cases disguising them as standard pieces of furniture. Usually made from wood with upholstered padding, they are available in various styles.

Essential Aids’ ‘Upholstered Commode’ is one of our most popular models. Closely resembling a conventional wooden armchair, it has a lift-off seat under which the pan is concealed.

As with most commodes, it has a small toilet seat, rather than simply a bar bowl. The pan or bucket itself has a carry handle, convenient for the emptying process.

Another model which shares similar characteristics is the ‘Wickerwork Commode’. As the name suggests, it has a woven wicker construction, along with wooden legs and frame. It has a wide seat and the same pan with a handle as the Upholstered Commode.

Our ‘Deluxe Commode Chair’ is another wooden framed model with similar features. In this case you are able to make a choice of the colour of the finish, helping you blend it in with your existing furniture.

A raised toilet seat is a commonly used bathroom aid, but these are not usually suitable for commodes. The fixings tend to be specific to standard toilet bowls and incompatible with commode chairs, even the substantial wooden ones mentioned above.

Metal frame commodes

Lighter weight and easier to keep clean than their wooden counterparts, commodes with metal frames tend to be cheaper and consequently more commonly used.

They have the same bucket fixing beneath the seat, but a priority is placed on keeping them easy to wipe down and disinfect. Another advantage over the wooden varieties is that metal commodes tend to be height adjustable. While not the case on every model, this feature is commonly found.

Some metal frame commodes, like the Dovedale Adjustable Height and Detachable Arms Commode at Essential Aids, have other characteristics which might appeal. Having removable arms, for example, makes this commode convenient for side transfers. This is useful if the commode is positioned next to the bed or if access is required directly from a wheelchair.

Like many commodes in this category, it features splayed legs, greatly improving stability. It is also able to stack with others of the same model, making it a popular choice in residential care homes, where efficient storage is a priority.

Wheeled commodes

A commode chair with wheels is a versatile piece of toileting equipment. These items can double up as wheelchairs and are in some cases suitable for use under showers in wet rooms.

While many are height adjustable some are actually fixed height, so it is important to check the spec before buying, in order to make sure yours has this feature, if you need it.

Essential Aids’ standard ‘Wheeled Commode’ is a high quality and popular model, delivering everything most people need. It features a metal frame and a vinyl padded seat, armrests and backrest. Finished with wipe-clean surfaces, it is easy to disinfect.

With a caster wheel on each leg, it is easy to maneuvre. The wheels can be locked into position, keeping the commode stable when in use.

Like many mobile commodes, the Wheeled Commode can be used with its own bucket, or this can be removed and the chair can be rolled over a standard toilet pedestal. This makes it a versatile piece of equipment. It has a lightweight aluminium frame, so it will not corrode in wet environments.

This model also comes with footplates. If the chair is to be used as a wheelchair and moving an individual from room to room, this may be a feature to look out for, as many models do not have it as standard.

Essential Aids also supplies the larger Etac Clean Self Propelled Shower Commode Chair which has moulded components with no welded holes or seams, reducing the risk of corrosion, while the seat is open at the rear for ease of access.

Unlike the other models mentioned above, the Etac is self propelled, which means it has the large rear wheels many people will be familiar with on wheelchairs. It is a great choice if you have access to a wet room and you are able to wash independently, without the help of a carer.

Bariatric commodes

There are numerous models of commode which are designed specifically for bariatric individuals. The term bariatric refers to those who are severely overweight, to the extent that their day-to-day behaviour is inhibited.

For people in this situation, specialist equipment is required which is both larger and stronger than standard. One option at Essential Aids is the Zenith Bariatric Commode which has a rust-proof design, a contoured seat and armrests. It has a measurement between the arms of 26 inches, and a maximum user weight of 60 stone. This makes it suitable for most bariatric patients.

While not designed as a wheelchair, it does have small flip-down wheels which enable it to be positioned as required before use.

Commode chairs with removable arms

If you need access to the commode directly from a wheelchair, you might consider one with removable arms. This feature makes the transfer process significantly easier for many users, particularly with the help of a transfer board to help bridge across from one to the other.

One example from Essential Aids is the Height Adjustable Drop Arm Commode. This model has caster wheels and all the usual features.

If you’re looking for a non-mobile option, the Dovedale Adjustable Height and Detachable Arms Commode is one of the best sellers. It has a simple design which is easy to use and maintain. The arms detach with ease and are just as simple to reattach.

It’s made of all wipe-clean materials and the legs splay further out the taller you set the chair, helping its stability. It is a popular choice in care homes but is suitable for domestic use too.

Folding commodes

If floor space is an issue or you think you’ll need to tuck it away in a cupboard for storage, you might consider buying a folding commode.

These tend to be metal framed models which are relatively easy to lift and handle. They all require the bowl to be removed before they can be folded up. Their low profile in their folded state means they are much easier to transport than non-folding models. This makes them a great option if you need to take one temporarily out of the home, or simply move it from room to room through narrow doorways.

Essential Aids’ Deluxe Folding Commode is a popular model with an efficient design. It has a padded seat and backrest, along with wipe clean surfaces. It also features armrests which flip-up out of the way when not being used. As mentioned above, this feature is welcome if the individual accesses the commode chair directly from a wheelchair.

This commode folds up with easy, collapsing down to a narrow profile, making it easy to slot into a cupboard to store.

Another option is the Deluxe Folding Travel Commode. This model is made from aluminium, making it super easy to lift. It has moulded parts and an easy fold mechanism.

Shower commode wheelchairs

Essential Aids supplies an extensive range of commodes which double up as shower wheelchairs. This means they can be used for both purposes, making them highly versatile pieces of equipment.

Available in both self-propelled and attendant-propelled versions, they are sturdy and meant to last.

Raised toilet seats and grab rails

Items like commodes are often bought with a variety of other toileting aids, dependent on your specific condition. For example, a raised toilet seat and a set of grab rails are frequently necessary if someone has trouble sitting down and standing up from the loo.

As mentioned above, a raised toilet seat will probably not be compatible with a commode as the fixings tend to be designed for standard toilet bowls. It’s obviously important that a raised toilet seat is stable, so make sure that if you do try one, that is fixed securely.

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Sally Madeley-Carr, OT

Sally qualified as an Occupational Therapist in 1996 and is a well-respected professional in the field of rehabilitation equipment and living aids. She has worked in private practice and within the NHS, developing a broad experience with adults and children. Click here for Sally's registration with the Health and Care Professions Council. The HCPC regulates health, physchological and social work professionals in the UK.

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