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Caregiving: Using a Bedside Commode (Toilet)

Topic Overview

A bedside commode is a portable toilet. If you are helping a loved one use a bedside commode, try to be relaxed. Helping with a commode can be embarrassing for both of you. This may be especially true if you are caring for someone of the opposite sex. If you are calm and don't seem embarrassed, the person may feel more comfortable.

Encourage your loved one to use the commode on a regular schedule as much as possible. For example, your loved one may try to use it every 2 to 4 hours. Keeping a regular schedule may help both men who have problems with incontinence and women who have problems with incontinence.

Plan ahead

Keep the commode close to your loved one's bed. Place it where it will be easy to get to but not in the way, such as against the wall. Keep the area near the commode free from clutter.

Before you help the person use the commode:

  • Gather the supplies you'll need, such as toilet paper, gloves, and a damp cloth or wet wipes.
  • Wash and dry your hands well.
  • Put on gloves if needed. For example, you may need to help with wiping.
  • Make sure your loved one is wearing non-slip shoes or slippers. It may be helpful for your loved one to wear clothes that are easy to take off.
  • Make sure the wheels on the commode are locked.

To transfer onto the commode

You can help your loved one transfer from a bed or chair onto the commode. Here are some tips.

  • As your loved one gets ready to move to the commode, make sure his or her feet are not crossed.
  • Have the person lean forward before standing. Help him or her stand up if needed. The person can help push with both arms.
  • Help the person slowly turn and step back to sit on the commode.
  • Be careful that your loved one doesn't lose balance or tip the commode when sitting down. It's best for men to sit while using the commode.

After using the commode

After the person is done using the commode:

  • Help your loved one wipe if needed. Wet wipes may work better than toilet paper for cleaning. For women, be sure to wipe the area from front to back.
  • If you helped your loved one to wipe, put on new gloves if your gloves are soiled. Some people may prefer to wipe on their own, using long-handled wipes.
  • Help your loved one stand up off the commode. Have your loved one slowly turn, step back to the bed or chair, and then sit.
  • Empty the commode bucket into the toilet.
  • Rinse and wash the commode bucket or basin using a disinfectant diluted with water. Dry the commode or let it air-dry.


Current as of: June 16, 2022

Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review:
Kathleen Romito MD - Family Medicine
Thomas M. Bailey MD - Family Medicine
Adam Husney MD - Family Medicine
Gayle E. Stauffer, RN - Registered Nurse

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