Different Types of Toilet Aids, Uses and Important Considerations

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This blog aims to cover four different types (Grab Rails, Toilet Support Arms, Raised Toilet Seats and Bidet Seats) of toilet aids also commonly known as independent living aids or disability aids, their uses and things to consider prior to purchasing them.

As the name suggests toilet aids are disability aids for the toileting area that are used by the elderly, seniors and mobility-impaired users. The primary purpose of installing toilet aids is to provide the user with more confidence for undertaking daily hygiene tasks independently with the need of another person such as a carer to be present with them.

There are plenty of different toilet aids available and each of these disability aids has their own use i.e. these have been specifically designed for a certain type of disability. So it is important for a mobility-impaired user to know which type of a toilet aid is right for their need.

Here is a list of some of the most common toilet aids with their uses and important things you need to consider prior to purchasing any one of these.

Grab Rails

The most versatile disability aid or independent living aid. Also known as a grab bar and a handrail, this disability aid can be used in the toileting area as a toilet aid, the bathing area as bath aids, showering area and pretty much anywhere around the house especially where a user is transitioning from a sitting to a standing position or vice versa and also if they are moving along an inclining or declining surface such as a staircase.

Grab rails are bars which are made out of a heavy-duty metal or ABS plastic that can be installed on walls using either a screw or suction cups and provide a user extra support while they are transitioning from one position to another in especially in areas where the risk of slip and fall is generally high, e.g. bathroom.  

When to use Grab Rails

Grab rails should be considered by a user in one of the following circumstances:

  • The user has knee or joint problems such as arthritis.
  • The user has recently undergone surgery and does not feel confident on their feet.
  • The user regularly experiences dizziness or shortness of breath.
  • The user is elderly or a senior and has weak legs and cannot take their own body weight while transitioning from one position to another or cannot remain stable on their feet for long periods of time.
  • In areas where the user has a higher risk of experiencing a slip and fall such as the bathing and showering area.

Considerations for Purchasing Grab Rails

There are plenty of different points that need to be considered prior to purchasing a grab rail including:

  • Material: Grab rails are built using materials such as stainless steel, aluminium. brass, re-enforced plastic or even wood. Each of these materials has its own pros and cons including weight-bearing capacity, electrical/heat conductivity and the type of environments they can be used in.
  • Weight-bearing capacity: As mentioned above, each grab rail will have it’s own capacity to take on weight, it is important that a user takes this into consideration prior to making a purchase.
  • Finish: Gone are the days when grab rails looked like a piece of metal straight out of the hospital ward, you can now choose from a range of different finishes. Choices include slip-resistant (knurled), satin, powder-coated, epoxy-coated, enamel-coated and polished. The finish is important for both the design or aesthetics and maintaining user-safety. E.g. a knurled finish would be preferred over the satin finish in a wet area such as the bathroom.
  • Shape and Size: In terms of shapes there are straight grab rails, angeled grab rails at 90 degrees or 45 degrees and corner grab rails. Each of these grab rails has its own application based on the need of a user. And in terms of size, you will need to consider two things i.e. the length and the diameter of the grab rail. The lengths of a grab rail can vary from 300 mm to 1200 mm and the diameter can vary from 30 mm to 40 mm. It is important that a user considers the site at which the grab rail will be installed for available space for installation and the grip by placing their hand over the grab rail before purchasing a grip.
  • Installation: Generally speaking grab rails come with three different types of installation methods i.e. screw-fix, suction cups and clamps. Screw-fix is considered the strongest with the maximum weight-bearing capacity. Followed by clamps and suction cups. It is worth mentioning that the latter two are not recommended to take on the full bodyweight of a person.      

The user will need to ascertain their needs and the site at which the grab rail needs to be installed prior to purchasing one. A tradesperson might be required at the site to carry out installation especially if a screw-fix grab rail is being considered and earthing is required.  

  • Standards: It is also important to check that the grab rails comply with the standards as prescribed by the appropriate authorities within the country.

Toilet Support Arms

Similar to grab rails, in fact sometimes considered a type of grab rail, these disability aids are installed on either side of the toilet suite providing the user support to get on and off a toilet seat.

Toilet support arms provide more support to the user as compared to a grab rail and can be used in cases where the user is on the heavier side in terms of weight.

When to use Toilet Support Arms

  • The user has leg or knee problems.
  • The user has recently experienced surgery or a stroke.
  • The user does not feel confident on their legs and needs extra support to transition into different positions.
  • When a user requires more support to use the toilet as compared to a grab rail.
  • When a grab rail cannot be installed for any reason.

Considerations for Purchasing Toilet Support Arms

  • Length: Much like grab rails, toilet support arms come in different lengths up to 770 mm to suit the user’s needs and the site of installation. It is important that you measure the area from the wall to the start of the toiled seat/bowl to ensure that the toilet support arm can be installed within these parameters.
  • Weight-bearing capacity: The material used to construct the toilet arm determines it’s weight-bearing capacity. Make sure you know your own weight and pick a toilet support arm that can support your weight.
  • Fixed or Folding: Toilet support arms can come as fixed or folding i.e. the arms can either stay in the upright position after use or otherwise be folded away. The latter option is good when the user needs more circulation space in the toilet area.
  • Installation: Installation is done using screws, therefore, it is important to determine if gyprock and studs or concrete is used at the site of the installation.

Raised Toilet Seat

Raised toilet seats are toilet aids that can be placed over an existing toilet seat in order to raise the height of a toilet seat.

Raised toilet seats are generally used when a user finds it difficult to the user a standard toilet since they have to cover more distance to get up and sit down from the toilet seat. A raised toilet seat acts as a booster and raises the height of the toilet bowl by a few inches. This reduces the distance travelled by an elderly user while switching positions thus making it much easier for them to use a toilet without the need for a support person or a caregiver.

When to use a Raised Toilet Seat

  • When the user experiences knee or leg problems.
  • When the user needs assistance to sit and rise from a standard toilet seat.
  • When installing an accessible toilet suite is not an option or feasible.

Considerations for purchasing Raised Toilet Seat

  • Height: The most important consideration while purchasing a raised toilet seat would be the height. The height of raised toilet seats can vary from 2 to 6 inches so it is important to know the preferences of the user.
  • Installation: There are a number of different options available when it comes to installation including, non-bolted (portable), clamped and bolted. Make sure you measure the toilet bowl from end to end and ascertain the shape of your toilet bowl.
  • Material: Can be made using heavy-duty plastic or rubber. If a user experiences pressure sores then the latter will be a better option.

Bidet Toilet Seats

Two different types of disability aids but used for the same purpose i.e. to clean the posterior after using the toilet. Bidet toilet seats are very good for disabled, seniors and those with limited mobility to ensure that they can maintain personal hygiene independently.

When to use a Bidet Toilet Seats

  • When the user has limited mobility and cannot undertake personal hygiene activities.
  • When the user is experiencing back problems.
  • When the user experiences shoulder or arm related problems.

Considerations for purchasing Bidet Toilet Seats

  • Non-Powered V/s Electrical: Bidet seats come in two different versions i.e. a non-powerered bidet seat and an electrical smart bidet seat. The latter requires electricity and offers an array of functions. If you go for the electrical version, make sure there is a power connection close to the toilet suite.
  • The Measurement: Although most bidet seats claim to fit most standard toilet bowls, it is best that you measure your toilet bowl from end to end to ensure that the raised toilet seat fits your existing toilet bowl.
  • Installation: You will need to make some adjustments to your current water connection i.e. use a T-shaped connector and also have the wiring done in order to use a smart bidet seat. It is best you hire a tradesman to undertake the job.
  • Water Reservoir: Some smart bidets come with a water reservoir which allows the water to get heated prior to use. Water reservoirs can be big and bulky so if you want one of these, make sure there is enough room near your toilet suite.

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