Buyer’s Guide to Commode and shower chair
Showering and going to the bathroom are self-care activities we do every day. If you find yourself unable to do these things without assistance, it can have a big impact on your quality of life.
Using equipment like commode chairs or shower chair can help you be more independent when it comes to personal care. In this guide, we explain how these aids work, what to look out for when choosing one, and the different types available.
What is a commode chair?
A commode chair is a free-standing toilet chair that is designed to help people who find walking to the bathroom difficult. They generally come as two options: a bedside commode chair, or a shower commode chair. Bedside commode chairs can be placed next to a bed for close access. They have arm rests and a removable pan attached underneath for discreet removal and cleaning.
A shower commode is similar to a bedside commode, but can also be wheeled into the bathroom for showering or positioning over a flushable toilet. You can find out more about the features included in a shower commode or bedside commode
Types of commode chairs
There are many types of commode chairs to suit different needs. While some are designed to be used as a toilet replacement, others can be wheeled into a shower for support while bathing, or positioned over the top of a flushable toilet.
Each chair has different features and varies in price, so take the time to choose the one that best suits your circumstances. To get you started, here are some of the more common types of commode chairs available.
This is a portable toileting chair with a removable pan built into the frame and a lid on top. They are usually placed near the bed for easy access, and to help prevent falls on the way to the bathroom. Most models have arm rests to help you transfer easily to the chair.
A mobile shower commode is a bedside commode that can also functions as a shower chair. It has castors and a water resistant frame so you can move yourself (or have a carer move you) to the bathroom for showering.
Some shower chairs are also able to be positioned over a standard toilet for use. This essentially gives them three functions: a bedside commode with a removable pan, a commode chair with wheels for transferring into the shower (the wheels also lock for safe cleaning), and a raised toilet seat for better support.
Attendant propelled shower commode
This type of shower commode has lockable wheels and handles, so they can be easily manoeuvred by someone else. They are a suitable option if you rely on a carer to move to and from the bathroom.
Self-propelled shower commode
Shower commodes that are self-propelling have wheelchair-style wheels that allow you to move yourself into the bathroom and shower, giving you greater independence in your daily routine.
This type of commode chair is constructed to carry heavier weights (up to 400kg for some models). It also features a larger seat and other features designed to make personal care easier.
Tilt-in-space shower commode
Some commode chairs also have recline capabilities to make showering easier. This makes them more comfortable for the user, and easier for the carer to safely perform personal care duties.
Benefits of a commode chair
Showering and using a toilet can be difficult if you are living with a disability or have a chronic illness that impacts your mobility. This may put you at risk of falling, especially if you are unable to stand for long periods of time, experience leg weakness, easily lose balance, or are recovering from surgery.
A shower or bedside commode can help solve some of these problems and allow you to be more independent. Using one can help you to:
- Maintain dignity and independence – commode chairs are easy to use without assistance, helping you can toilet comfortably (sitting upright instead of using a bedpan) and safely.
- Reduce the risk of falls – a shower commode helps you navigate a slippery bathroom without tripping over and risking an accident, while arm rests make it easier to lower yourself down.
- Adjust the height of your toilet – the height of a commode chair can be raised to suit the user, which can be helpful if you have weakened legs or a chronic condition like arthritis that makes certain movements difficult.
- Transfer easily into the bathroom – a shower commode with lockable castors (wheels) allows you to move yourself (or have a carer to wheel you) safely into the shower or to a flushable toilet.
- Care for your personal hygiene – using an aid can help you regain confidence to care for your personal hygiene. It can help create a safe, supported environment for a loved one who is experiencing mobility issues.
- Maintain equipment easily – bedside and shower commodes are designed to be easy to clean, especially compared to protective bed liners and incontinence underwear.
Using your commode chair for the first time
Before using your commode chair, it’s a good idea to talk to a health professional about how to do so safely and for maximum comfort. Here are some preparation tasks you may want to do:
- Adjust the height so it is suited to your body and you can use it without too much bending.
- Familiarise yourself with the commode’s different functions, such as how to operate the breaks and lock the castors if you are using a shower commode.
- Decide where you will store the commode when it is not in use – a shower commode should be dried after use and stored in a dry environment, while a bedside commode needs to be easily accessible.
- Clear the area around the commode so there are no trip hazards that can put you at risk of falling.
- Make a plan for how you will clean the commode after use. Most models are easy to maintain with a removable pan and lid.
- Practice getting in and out of a shower commode with a carer or loved one, so that you feel confident using it.
- If you plan to use it in the shower, have all the things you need (soap, towels, etc) at hand, and decide if you will wheel in backwards or front-facing.
What to consider when choosing a commode chair
Which commode chair is right for you largely depends on your care needs. Before you purchase one, think about how you will use the chair, whether you will be relying on help from someone else, and which features of the chair are most important to you.
What to consider when choosing a shower chair
Shopping for shower chairs and stools may seem simple, but it’s worth thinking through what features are important to you, as each shower chair is different. Things to consider are:
- Weight capacity – check the maximum capacity of the chair you are purchasing and that it is sturdy enough to hold your weight. A bariatric shower chair is a good option if you need a higher weight capacity.
- Chair construction – check the chair is made out of a waterproof, corrosion resistant and sturdy material like healthcare-grade PVC or aluminium.
- The size of the chair – most are designed to be compact enough to fit inside a standard shower, but check the dimensions of your bathroom and shower space first before making a purchase.
- Portability – If you or your carer will need to move the chair around, make sure it is lightweight enough for you to carry. A folding shower seat can be a good option if you are after easy storage when not in use.
- Back support – if you cannot support your own weight, choose a shower seat with back and neck support for comfort and safety. Tilt-in-space models with a recline function are also available to help carers more comfortably provide care.
- Arm rests – if you need help transferring yourself into the chair, consider buying a shower chair with arms so you can safely lower yourself into the seat.
- Multipurpose chair – some shower chairs have lockable wheels so you can move yourself (or have a carer move you) into the shower. They can also double as a shower commode for those who need support for toileting.
What is a shower chair?
A shower chairs (sometimes known as shower stools or bath chairs) is a water resistant chair or stool that can be placed inside a shower. It is designed to give you a safe and comfortable place to rest while showering if you find standing for long periods of time difficult.
Many models come with adjustable leg rests and back rests to suit different body types. They are also built with rubber footing on the legs to avoid the chair slipping while on a wet surface.