What is a Commode?

Written by
Emily Carver

What is a Commode?

If you or a loved one have recently been discharged from a stay in hospital or are struggling with mobility and require additional support with going to the loo, you may be wondering ‘what is a commode?’. 

The commode definition is: a portable toilet not connected to plumbing which features a removable chamber, or pan. The pan is manually emptied by a carer after each use. 

What is a commode used for? The answer is simple. A commode allows people to use the toilet without having to physically move to the bathroom. They are an important tool for people who may have injuries, physical conditions or mobility issues that could prevent them from getting to the bathroom. The commode assists people to maintain their privacy and dignity while using the toilet. 

Advantages of commode chairs

If you’re considering purchasing a commode for yourself, or a loved one, you may want to be aware of these key advantages. 

Safety

Commodes provide a safe alternative to having to transfer to the bathroom, which could potentially be dangerous for people with mobility issues and even their carers. Many bathrooms are built to be small and compact, making it difficult for carers to manoeuvre in and support their patients. Transfers within the bathroom could cause injury to both carers and patients if someone were to slip or fall on the tiles due to not having adequate space.

Independence

The commode requires minimal assistance, allowing older people or those with limited mobility to remain independent at home when going to the loo. 

Privacy

When asking the question ‘what is a commode used for?’, privacy is one of the key answers to consider.

Going to the loo is extremely private, and understandably, many people would be resistant to accepting help from a caregiver that they are not very familiar with. With the commode, carers can help transfer patients, and then leave the room, ensuring privacy wherever possible. 

Efficient

It is well known that carers are often on a tight schedule to attend to as many patients as possible. The commode enables carers to efficiently assist their patients to go to the toilet. The commode makes the process safer and quicker, which helps to reduce wait times for other patients.  

Cost-Effective

Many people living with mobility issues have to face the decision to make serious, and costly, alterations to their homes to make them more accessible. A commode may help some people to reduce costs by not having to adapt their bathroom. This gives more people control to live at home, better, for longer. 

Image of portable commode over a toilet

What are the different types of commode chairs?

When searching for a new commode chair, there are a few different options for you to look at. Middletons has identified the key features of the most popular commode choices available. 

Portable commode chairs

Portable commode chairs are a great solution if you require your commode to move from room to room. Most portable commodes are lightweight and feature four wheels and armrests, Their design means that they can be easily moved by carers. They can be wheeled over tiles, carpet, vinyl or wooden flooring - or even wheeled over a toilet for added privacy. Portable commode chairs may also be used as a shower chair if you have a wet room or accessible shower, just remove the pan.

Static commode chairs

Static commode chairs do not feature wheels but can be carried from room to room if needed. Some chairs may be in a more decorative and discreet style, fitting in with your existing decor. Static commode chairs will also feature a lid, pan and detachable arms for ease of transfer. 

Bariatric commode chairs

Bariatic commode chairs are designed for individuals who weigh over 300lbs. Bariatric products are typically designed for people up to 600lbs. The bariatric commode features a wider seat than the traditional static or portable commode chairs, providing more comfort. The bariatric commode also features a removable arm to aid transfer from a chair or bed

Image of examples of the three different types of commodes, portable, static and bariatric

Things to consider before buying a commode

When you shop for a commode, there are a few different options available to choose from. It is important to take into account your range of mobility, build and lifestyle. Middletons has shared a few key points to consider when buying a commode chair. 

  • What are the dimensions of the chair? What is the seat width?
  • What is the weight capacity of the commode chair, will it be sufficient for your needs?
  • Does the commode chair have adjustable legs or arms?
  • How comfortable is the commode chair and does it require increased back support?
  • Does the commode of choice fit into the bathroom?
  • What room of the house is the commode most likely to be used in?
  • When opting for a static commode chair, would you like a commode in a more decorative style?
  • What material and durability are required for the chair? For example, will it also be going into a wet room? 
  • If the person using a commode is being supported by a loved one, do they know how to safely handle a commode?

Image of a static commode chair

Difference between toilet and commode

There can often be some confusion around what is a commode, exactly? Many people use the terms toilet and commode interchangeably - but there is a key difference. 

The word commode comes from the French language, meaning convenient! Commodes were commonly found inside the home before indoor plumbing and sewers became popular. They were used for going to the loo, particularly at night.  Looking ahead to 18th century, once bathroom plumbing began to move inside, people would still refer to the porcelain toilets we know today as commodes. Despite the rise of indoor plumbing, the terminology has stuck, particularly in America.

What is a commode and what is a toilet? Simply stated - a toilet is a permanent plumbing fixture, and a commode is a typically portable and private chamber, not connected to running water.

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