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Why finding the best bedside commode is like trying to find the best undertaker...

Updated: Jun 22, 2023

In our healthiest years, talking about poo is usually a point of levity and laughter.

“Oh - you’re turning 50. I hope you enjoy getting your letter from the state government inviting you in to get a poo test! Haha, you old bugger!”

But as we age, or if we suffer an injury or disability, poo, your own or that of someone you love, can become a very real and ongoing challenge that is far from funny.

Every year, many Australians suffer from at least a temporary period of time where they have genuine difficulty making it from a bed to a flushing toilet, even if it’s only a few meters away.

These kinds of extreme mobility challenges take not just your ability to move away, but often your dignity as well, especially if your carer is a friend or family member which they often are if the situation is long-term.

So how exactly is your dignity taken?

The humble bedside commode.

Nothing humbles a person more than knowing that their carer or loved one is going to see and smell their poo on a regular basis as a result of carrying out the contents of their bedside commode, dumping them into a toilet, and then cleaning the commode each time.

In this writer's view, those who do this work deserve a special place in heaven because it’s not pleasant yet they mostly do it with grace and good humour.

So are there better options than the humble bedside commode chair?

Fundamentally, the challenge of bedside toileting is plumbing and/or the way that non-plumbed-in portable toilets work, specifically, how they evacuate the waste.

So let’s jump into the detail here.

Obviously, the plumbing issue is very easy to understand. It’s not practical or often even possible to plumb a new toilet into a hospital room or domestic bedroom.

So that leaves only portable toilets as viable options, the type that you would normally asses for camping or off-road use.

In that category, you have the following options:

  1. Non-flushing bucket toilets and bedside commodes with chairs

  2. Chemical toilets

  3. Composting toilets

  4. Incineration toilets

  5. Dry Flush toilets (a new option)

We’ve already addressed the challenges with all of the non-flushing toilet options but in summary:

  • You can’t hide the smell because it just sits there. This stinks up the room and is just horrible for everyone involved.

  • You can’t hide the waste. Someone is going to see it.

  • Someone has to come in and clean up after you.

Can you use a chemical toilet for a disability toilet?

To make this brief, there are two problems with almost all chemical toilets that those with temporary or permanent mobility challenges will face:

  1. You almost always have to pump the poo out of the bowl using a foot pump to clear the waste out of sight. This is often not possible for those with extreme mobility issues so you still have the problem of the waste being seen by your carer.

  2. Someone still has to empty and clean the holding. Again, your carer or loved one will see and then smell your poo, except now it’s kind of a poo-and Lavendar scented bouquet - an equally unsettling combo!

What about composting or incineration toilets as aged care or disability toilet options?

Again, to keep this brief, both of these solutions are probably not suitable for bedside commodes because they’re big, they’re heavy, and they often require extensive installation.

Not only that, but in the case of an incineration toilet (which costs about $7,500 by the way!), they draw a LOT of power.

For example, did you know that it takes 45 minutes to burn a single poo and to get it done, you need to use about as much power as running your microwave on high for 45 minutes straight? Plus you can’t use the toilet during that time.

So this leaves the last option.

Dry Flush toilets are the best disability toilets to replace bedside commodes

The last option I will cover is a new waterless toilet in Australia called a Laveo Dry Flush toilet.

This very unique portable toilet overcomes all of the challenges of the others listed in this article so far:

  1. It can be placed right next to the bed with no plumbing.

  2. It runs off a battery that lasts 300 flushes off a single 1-hour charge. You don’t need a power point, extension chord, or anything else on that front.

  3. To flush it, you just push a button (no foot or hand pumping).

  4. Once you flush it, the waste is hygienically sealed into an airtight package never to be seen or smelled again by anyone.

Got your attention?

It should because it really is the best option for those needing a bedside toilet solution that doesn’t involve the indignity of having your poo paraded through the bedroom.

So how does this toilet work?

Using a patented process, this fully electric toilet uses two fans, a vacuum, a small motor, and a mylar bagging system to wrap, seal and store your waste in such a way that all smell is locked in and nobody ever sees it once you flush.

In layman’s terms, it works like a big sock that is gradually pulled down, flush-by-flush, from a bag holder (known as “a cartridge”) that sits directly under the seat.

It works like a football sock and an orange…

Imagine dropping an orange into a football sock and then twisting that football sock around 4 times really tightly. What you would then have is a new bottom to the sock, ready for the next orange.

That’s how the Laveo toilet works but it’s fully automatic.

The bagging cartridge under the seat holds enough mylar bag material to perform around 15 “flushes” and “wraps”, and when those are done and the cartridge is empty, all of those hygienically wrapped, smell-free parcels of waste are sitting inside of a holding bin that is lined with a small garbage bag.

You carer simply:

  • Lifts off the toilet seat

  • Grabs the garbage bag

  • Fits a new bagging cartridge under the seat

  • Throws the garbage bag in a wheelie bin in the same way that you throw away a properly wrapped doggie bag.

All of that takes less than a minute and nobody ever saw or smelled your poo!

Winner winner chicken dinner indeed!

Can the seat height be boosted using a toilet riser or lift kit? What about a toilet handrail for additional support?

Yes and yes!

The Laveo does have a custom-made toilet riser or "lift kit" that holds the toilet firmly in place while rising the seat height by 7.5cm.

You can also buy a support frame to assist with lowering down onto the toilet or getting up from it.

Here is a photo of the system setup with both the lift kit and the handrail support frame.

So how much does the Laveo Dry Flush cost and what about the bags?

At AUD $2,300 including GST, the Laveo Dry Flush toilet is slightly more expensive than a top-end chemical toilet, or about the same as a mid-range composting toilet.

So in terms of value, when compared to other mobile toilet options, it’s not bad.

That being said, it is much more expensive than the humble bedside commode, but what price do you put on your dignity and not having to subject a friend, family member, or carer to the task of emptying your poo and cleaning up the commode every day? Not to mention not having to have your waste working as an anti-air freshener until help arrives!

The other aspect of the system is the cost of the bags, so let’s look at that.

Each cartridge comes loaded with about 5 meters of their proprietary mylar bagging material. This is a key component of the Laveo system because it locks in the smell which is absolutely essential for smell-free toileting.

Those 5 meters will allow for around 15 “flushes”, but you don’t have to flush every time because they also sell a very low-cost powder called pee powder that is used if all you are doing is a number 1 - a wee.

A half teaspoon of this incredible powder sprinkled into the bowl before you wee, will deodorise your wee and turn it into an odourless gel within about 90 seconds. It’s actually really impressive to see!

This means that you can do up to 3 number 1’s before you have to flush, which cuts your bagging costs in half.

That being said, cartridges range in price from $52 - $66/cartridge, depending on how many buy. So on a per-flush basis, that’s between $3.49 and $4.40 per flush.

Let’s say you wee 4 times a day and you poo once. That means that you will use about 2-3 flushes per day which equates to between $7-$9 per day on the low side (2 flushes/day) up to $10-$15 per day if you flush 3 times a day.

The variance is in the price you paid for the bags based on the quantity that you purchased at one time. The more you buy, the less expensive they are.

Summary of best bedside toilet options for disability, aged care, or limited mobility sufferers…

Like all things in life, there is always a trade-off when it comes to finding a perfect solution for any problem. Good things are rarely cheap. Fast things are rarely high quality. You get the point right?

In the case of bedside toilet options for those with disabilities or mobility challenges, I really do believe that the Laveo is the best option, and in fact, it may be the only option outside of the humble bedside commode chair.

If you can afford it, there really isn’t anything close that I know about.

Can I get a Laveo Dry Flush toilet funded by the NDIS as an assistive technology device?

At the time of writing, DryFlush Australia (the exclusive distributor of the Laveo Dry Flush toilet in Australia and New Zealand) is in the final stages of being added to the NDIS register of approved service providers.

At $2,300, the toilet falls into the mid-tier of assistive technologies ($1,500 - $15,000) meaning that you do not to have to get quotes to get one funded, but it does need to fit within the guidelines of your plan.

As per the wording on the NDIS website: “We need to understand your Assistive Technology needs and how the right Assistive Technology will help you pursue your goals. We’ll need different information from you depending on the cost and risk. Some equipment or items will need a qualified Assistive Technology advisor to talk with you about your needs and situation and help identify the most appropriate Assistive Technology. The Assistive Technology advisor may be an allied health practitioner, continence nurse, rehabilitation engineer, AT mentor or other qualified practitioner.”

If you need to learn more about how to get Assistive Technology such as the Laveo Dry Flush toilet included in your plan, click here.


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