How Do You Know Which Commode To Buy?
So you’ve decided to buy a commode – but you’ve realized that it’s not just one size fits all. Don’t worry, as our useful guide is here to help you understand which commode to buy.
As well as explaining the different types of commodes and our top choices, we also look at safety tips (from Nancy our physiotherapist) and how to clean a commode.
- How Do You Know Which Commode To Buy?
- What Is A Commode?
- Different Types Of Commodes
- Wheeled Commode Chair
- Shower Commode Chair
- Wicker Commode Chair
- Metal Commode
- Folding Commode Chair
- What To Do Before Buying A Commode
- Padded Commode Seat
- How To Use A Commode
- How To Clean A Bedside Commode
What Is A Commode?
Essentially a portable toilet built inside a chair, commodes for the elderly can make life that little bit easier. As it’s not plumbed in, it doesn’t use running water. Instead, there’s a removable pan underneath which needs to be cleaned after use.
Static or portable depending on the type you choose, it can be parked next to your parent’s bedside (or in their living room next to their riser recliner chair for example) and means that your parent can more easily use the toilet. The height should be the same as their toilet seat.
A commode toilet can benefit:
- Someone with limited mobility: There’s less distance to travel to use the toilet.
- Someone living with incontinence: If your parent worries about being near a toilet at all times, then a commode could be the answer. This way, they don’t need to rush to the loo – meaning there’s less chance of falling over too.
Talking of falling over, a commode toilet could also be an idea for your parent if they’re having to get up at night to use the bathroom – especially if they experience dizziness (also known as postural hypotension).
Having it by the bed means they don’t need to walk to the bathroom, and you could even get some sensor lights which come on when they stand up so they don’t need to go the light switch.
Different Types Of Commodes
There’s a fair few types of commode chairs to choose from. We distill it all here.
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Wheeled Commode Chair
A wheeled commode gives more flexibility at home as it can be used around the house. Apply the brakes and it can either be used as a standard commode (such as next to the bed), or remove the pan and place the commode frame over the toilet to give your loved one more support when sitting down and pushing up to stand.
In some cases too, a portable commode can also double up as a mobile shower chair (for a wet room so the frame can easily get in and out). They can really make life easier not just for your mum or dad, but the carer too.
A wheeled commode will come with a cover so your parent can sit on it and be moved around the house (make sure brakes are always on during transfer).
However, it’s not designed to be a wheelchair and it definitely doesn’t have the comfort factor of a wheelchair so please don’t use it as one!
We like this good value option that holds up to 16 stone in weight. The pan holds up to 5 litres and the arm and foot rests move on command for easy transfers (but lock in place when in use).
Shower Commode Chair
If your parent doesn’t have a wet room (so doesn’t have the space or flat access for a wheeled commode), then a static shower commode chair could be an option. This would be best if they have the strength to move it around themselves, or have a carer there.
This 4-in-1 design works as a shower chair, bedside commode, over toilet frame or simply a cushioned chair. The pan has a self-locking lid that attaches to the underside of the padded seat, securely and hygienically covering it when not in use.
It has a carrying handle on the backrest, is lightweight and can easily be height adjusted (if your parent needs a different height in the shower for example, or if both your parents are using it). Super sturdy, it holds up to 20 stone in weight and is really easy to keep clean.
Wicker Commode Chair
Commodes can be a necessity, but that doesn’t mean you want everyone to know you have one.
There’s some more luxury commode chair options available that are designed to blend in with the décor and look more like a standard tub chair (there’s a removable padded seat). Made from wicker and with wooden legs, these static frames obviously aren’t as easy to clean if needed as a metal style but can be a great option.
You’d never know there was a plastic bucket with a lid and carry handle hidden inside this commode – to the eye it’s just a stylish bedroom chair. And that’s what makes it so popular. When not being used, your parent can add some more colour with a bright cushion. The pan sits snugly in its base, so liquid doesn’t escape and it holds a good amount. The opening is circular, so better for a woman than a man however.
You don’t always need an all-singing, all-dancing model – and whilst a metal commode is more basic, it definitely works well. Plus, it’s lightweight (great if your parent needs to move it) and the metal means it’s very easy to keep clean. You can upgrade it slightly, adding adjustable legs and detachable arms.
This is a great entry-level commode. It’s black, so doesn’t look hospital-like and it holds 25 stone in weight. The pan can contain up to 5 litres and there’s padding for the back. Even better for the price, you can adjust the height – meaning it could work well for a couple.
A foldable commode is great for people who may want to use it in different rooms or different locations (a travel commode can be a good idea if going to visit family for example).
And don’t go thinking that they’re lesser quality as this isn’t always the case. We really like this lightweight commode which easily folds up.
What To Do Before Buying A Commode
- Check the seat opening. It’s standard for a commode to come with a wide oval opening. However you might have seen some have a horseshoe shape. Men who are post-surgery may find the horseshoe style better whilst overall, the circle-style opening can be easier for people to clean themselves.
- Think about its location. If it isn’t a big frame, you may want to position the commode toilet against a wall so that your parent can lean against this for stability. Plus think about how discreet does it need to be?
- Consider how it will be used. Static or wheeled? Will there be a carer there to help your parent or will they be using it solo? Just as a commode chair or also as a toilet frame and in the shower?
- How much space does your parent have for this?
- Make sure that if the pan has a handle, there’s space for it to ergonomically fit at the back and not the front (near where your parent’s legs are) – this will avoid them pinching their legs on it.
- Check your parent feels safe using it. You might want to stay with them the first times they use it, or even get them a little bell to ring when they need help getting off it (to protect their privacy). We’ve got some tips on how to use a commode below too.
Commodes aren’t the comfiest seats in the world, especially if your parent is is slim and doesn’t have much natural padding.
A commode cushion can help – it’s not really a long-term solution (it may be that you need to invest in a more solid and padded commode instead) but could work if the commode is being used in the short-term.
There’s a few versions available, but we think this is the best of the bunch. It has straps to attach onto the commode and whilst you can’t wash it, the cover material is vapour permeable wipe clean.
Another tip – if your parent finds using it uncomfortable on their back, then a cheap and hygienic solution is to place a towel over the back frame for extra padding.
How To Use A Commode
- Make sure there’s a small amount of water in the pan before use. This makes it so much easier to clean it.
- Your parent will stand in front of and close to the commode, so they can feel it behind their knees.
- If there are armrests, they should use them.
- Encourage them to bend slightly forward at the waist and lower themselves onto the seat.
- Once they’ve finished, place arms on the arm rests and encourage them to use the strength in their legs and arms to push up.
- It’s important to use even pressure on both sides to avoid tipping. You can always help but make sure they don’t put both arms around your neck.
- Make sure loo roll is within easy reach. Putting string through the roll could help them avoid over stretching.
- Once they’re off, take the pail off and clean it (more on this below) and wipe down the frame.
How To Clean A Bedside Commode
Cleaning a commode is so important! Here are our top tips.
A small amount of water in the commode pan before use can make it easier to clean out. You can mix this water with a small amount of odour eliminator like this to make it easier on the nose.
Use commode liners to prevent any spills. There’s some great biodegradable commode liners on the market which come with an absorbent element already in (a pad, gel or powder) to absorb liquid quickly.
Super simple to use, just put the liner inside the commode pan and then once used, tie a knot at the top and throw away. If you use these liners then you don’t need to add the water to the pan like mentioned above.
Clean All Of The Commode
Put on some rubber gloves and get out your bathroom disinfectant (Dettol spray is good). Go over the pan (you may want bleach for this), frame, seat and armrests – just make sure that any part that comes into contact with your loved one has been properly wiped if you’ve used bleach.
These large bed pads stretch are great for keeping liquid out of the mattress – but they can also be used for other purposes too. Securely tack them down to the floor under the commode (using rug grips) so there’s no risk of falls. This way, the floor around the commode can be kept clean too.
We’ve written all about incontinence bed pads and the best way to keep your parent dry in bed if you want a read.
Empty The Pan As Often As Possible
This might not be possible if used at night and no carer is on hand but then make sure that it’s part of the morning care plan. And when it’s emptied, put the lid on to stop the smells getting out.
Keep The Bedroom Clean
If it’s a bedside commode, there’s lots of other fabrics in the bedroom which could absorb the odours. Wash bedding regularly, spray curtains with Febreze and clean carpets. Getting a diffuser could help too.
When it comes to buying a commode, there’s a lot to consider. As with all living aids, a bedside commode can make life easier but it’s important to choose well. Speak with your parent (and potentially their carer) to understand how the commode will be used and located. Work out how confident they feel using one, and how often it can be emptied. All these answers will help you find the best one to buy. Thanks for stopping by and reading our article, hope you’ve found it useful.