What to Know About Bedside Commodes

Medically Reviewed by Dany Paul Baby, MD on June 26, 2022
4 min read

A commode is a toilet with no plumbing. It can't be drained or flushed and must be emptied by hand. It also needs cleaning after each use. A bedside commode is kept near a bed for people with limited mobility. If you have a family member who can't walk to the bathroom because of age, injury, or illness, you will need to learn how to use a bedside commode. 

A bedside commode is a portable toilet. It has no water supply or drainage and can be easily moved around for convenience. It is a great help to people who can't walk to the bathroom because of frailty or illness. 

A bedside commode is better than using a bedpan or urinal. Getting out of bed helps avoid pressure sores (bedsores). Sitting up makes it easier to pass urine and empty your bowels.

A bedside commode is a more dignified alternative to a bedpan. A bedpan is given to an ailing person while they're lying down, and most people find it difficult to use. A bedside commode uses a familiar posture and requires less energy than a bedpan.

A bedside commode is used for people who are unable to walk to the toilet. Older people and those with long-standing illnesses benefit from having one. Those with temporarily reduced mobility because of an injury can use one until they get better.

A bedside commode is also useful for people with incontinence (difficulty controlling their bladder). Rushing to reach the toilet can lead to falls and accidents.

A bedside commode is also recommended for controlling the spread of infections. Travelers who return with viral hemorrhagic fevers should be isolated. A covered bedside commode is recommended if a bathroom is not attached to the room. It is handled by workers wearing personal protective equipment.

A bedside commode may be embarrassing for you and the person you're caring for. Try to be composed about it to help your loved one feel relaxed. Keep a good supply of all required items, like gloves, toilet paper, and wipes, in a convenient place close by.

Before using the commode, make sure it is stable. If it has wheels, lock them. Wear gloves because you may need to help with wiping. Ensure the space around the commode is free of objects. The person using it should be able to safely move on, off, and around the commode.

The commode user should wear nonslip slippers or shoes. Help them rise from their bed and undress as necessary. Help them turn toward the commode and step back to sit on it. Make sure they don't trip or lose their balance while moving from their bed to the commode.

Most commodes have extensions in the legs. You can adjust the height of the commode to suit the user. Frail people may need a taller commode than regular toilets. When adjusting the height, make sure all four legs are the same length. The locking pins on the legs should all be well secured to prevent accidents when using the commode.

Hand your loved one the toilet paper or wipes if they can wipe themselves. You can help them, wearing gloves. Wipes may be better than toilet paper. Women should always be wiped front to back to prevent urinary infections

If your gloves are soiled, remove them and put on a fresh pair. Then help the person stand up from the commode. They should turn, step back toward their bed, and sit on it. Make sure they're steady and comfortable. Then empty the bucket of the commode into the toilet. 

The bucket must be emptied and cleaned after each use. Make sure you're wearing protective gloves while emptying the commode bucket. Lift the toilet seat and pick up the bucket using the handle.

Empty the contents into the toilet. Rinse the pail and empty the rinse water into the toilet.

The commode sits in your loved one's bedroom and must be clean. It's important to keep it free from odors and infections.

The bucket is usually made of plastic. Use a household cleaner like Lysol to clean it. Toilet bowl cleaners are likely to damage the plastic. Rinse the pail after chemical cleaning and empty the rinse water into the toilet. Place the pail back into the commode. Dispose of your gloves and wash your hands.

The frame, lid, and seat also need cleaning every few days. Wear gloves and use a cloth soaked with a cleaning agent like Lysol to wipe these surfaces. Use a damp cloth to wipe off the cleaning agent. Give the frame, lid, and seat time to air dry. Remove your gloves and wash your hands.

Use a commode appropriate for the user's weight. The manufacturer specifies the weight limit of the bedside commode. If the person weighs more than 250 lbs (113 kg), they should have a special bariatric commode.

Using a bedside commode can be awkward for anyone, especially if they need someone with them. This may be especially true if you're helping someone of the opposite sex. Try to be understanding and supportive so that the person you're helping doesn't feel embarrassed.

From time to time, check that the seat and backrest have no cracks or tears. These can become contaminated.

If your loved one has problems controlling their urine or stools, encourage them to use the bedside commode every 2 to 4 hours. Regular, scheduled use may help people with incontinence. 

People who only have trouble with walking can use a wheeled commode. Such commodes have large rear wheels like a wheelchair. The user can wheel themselves to the bathroom and position the commode over the regular toilet. They can relieve themselves in privacy. You only need to help them get on and off the commode.