TECHNICAL FIELD OF THE INVENTION
- BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION
The present invention relates generally to toilet seats, commodes and to the types of chair-like toilet-sitting appliances that are typically free-standing rather than installed as fixtures in buildings. In particular, the present invention relates to such toilet-sitting appliances that are foldable when not in use.
Bariatric patients and other people of uncommonly large size and weight, such as those over weighing over 300 lbs, need special equipment that may not be required by others. One such piece of special equipment is a toilet-sitting appliance, such as a toilet seat or commode. A special toilet-sitting appliance is needed because the traditional toilets and commodes installed as fixtures in numerous places where such items are needed tend to be too small to manage a large person and are often too weakly built to support a person of large weight. Accordingly, a need exists for a toilet-sitting appliance that is dimensioned to accommodate a large person and is well-braced to support a large weight.
In addition, in many homes and buildings where medical patients find themselves, many fixture-toilets are installed only in special lavatory rooms that are equipped with plumbing. This arrangement can impose a burden on patients that may not be strictly bedridden but whose mobility is severely restricted. Such patients may, from time-to-time, need a commode that is more-conveniently located near their beds in rooms that may not have plumbing.
But a toilet-sitting appliance, and particularly a toilet-sitting appliance that is larger than normal, may also take up an undesirably large amount of space in small living quarters. And, personal modesty may demand that a toilet-sitting appliance be reconfigured to a shape or form that is less personally offensive or otherwise stored when not in use. Accordingly, a further need exists for a toilet-sitting appliance that is foldable for purposes of storage and/or transportation when not being used as a toilet-sitting appliance.
In situations where it is desired that a toilet-sitting appliance be folded when not in use, whether for space-saving or aesthetic reasons, the setting-up of the toilet-sitting appliance for use and the tearing-down of the toilet-sitting appliance for storage becomes a routine and frequent operation. Accordingly, a further need exists for a foldable toilet-sitting appliance that is quickly and easily unfolded or placed in a usable mode and is quickly and easily folded or placed in a mode for storing.
- SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION
As with any foldable, free-standing toilet-sitting appliance, such an appliance intended for the bariatric patient is desirably as lightweight and inexpensive as practical. But other goals are also important. For example, it must safely support the large weight of a large person, and the sitting surface is desirably centered in the appliance so that the large weight not does not cause the appliance to tip over. It is conventional for a free-standing toilet-sitting appliance to include a backstop structure against which a toilet seat cover may rest when the appliance is being sat upon. But conventional backstop structures tend to be configured to permit a sitting surface to become substantially off-center while being constructed of excessive material so as to increase weight and expense.
It is an advantage of the present invention that an improved foldable toilet-sitting appliance is provided;
- Another advantage is that a foldable toilet-sitting appliance is provided that is suitable for use by bariatric patients and by patients whose mobility may be restricted.
Another advantage is that a foldable toilet-sitting appliance is provided that is easily opened for use and easily folded for storage.
Another advantage is that a foldable toilet-sitting appliance is provided with a reduced-size backstop structure that encourages a sitting surface to remain centered within the appliance.
- BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS
These and other advantages of the present invention are realized in one form by an improved foldable toilet-sitting appliance. The foldable toilet-sitting appliance includes a brace and a top. The brace has front and rear U-shaped leg assemblies with ends of the U-shaped leg assemblies forming feet. The brace also has at least two side-support bodies formed from U-shaped pipes pivotally coupled to the front and rear leg assemblies. The brace also has a U-shaped backrest support centrally mounted at an upper portion of the U-shaped rear leg assembly. The top has an opening centrally located therein, and the top is removably coupled to the brace.
A more complete understanding of the present invention may be derived by referring to the detailed description and claims when considered in connection with the Figures, wherein like reference numbers refer to similar items throughout the Figures, and:
FIG. 1 shows a first preferred embodiment of a foldable toilet-sitting appliance configured in accordance with the teaching of the present invention in a fully unfolded or opened position;
FIG. 2 shows a foldable frame assembly or brace of the foldable toilet-sitting appliance of FIG. 1 in a fully closed position;
FIG. 3 shows a front view of the foldable toilet-sitting appliance from FIG. 1 in a fully opened position;
FIG. 4 shows a cross-sectional view taken along line A-A of FIG. 3; and
- DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE PREFERRED EMBODIMENTS
FIG. 5 shows a second embodiment of a foldable toilet-sitting appliance configured in accordance with the teaching of the present invention.
FIGS. 1-4 depict a first embodiment of a foldable toilet-sitting appliance 10 configured in accordance with the teaching of the present invention. In particular, FIG. 1 depicts an open position for toilet-sitting appliance 10; FIG. 2 depicts a foldable brace or frame assembly 1 of toilet-sitting appliance 10 in a closed or folded condition; FIG. 3 shows a front view of foldable toilet-sitting appliance 10 in a fully opened position; and FIG. 4 shows a cross-sectional view taken along line A-A of FIG. 3. In general, toilet-sitting appliance 10 includes brace or frame assembly 1 and a top 2.
While not limited to such use, toilet-sitting appliance 10 is particularly suited for use by bariatric patients. Accordingly, dimensions for toilet-sitting appliance 10 are desirably somewhat larger than might by used for more conventional toilets, commodes, and the like, and materials are chosen so as to safely support a greater weight than is supported by more conventional toilet-sitting appliances. Moreover, in this first embodiment of toilet-sitting appliance 10, nothing requires that a bowl or toilet be fitted underneath the seat. Thus, toilet-sitting appliance 10 may be used by being placed over a conventional flushable toilet.
Brace 1 includes a front leg assembly 11, a rear leg assembly 12, and four side-support bodies 13. Leg assemblies 11 and 12 and side-support bodies 13 are formed from circular-cross-section tubes or pipes, and are preferably formed of steel to provide sufficient strength for a bariatric patient. Front leg assembly 11 and the rear leg assembly 12 are each configured into an inverse ‘U’ shape, with the open end of each ‘U’ shape providing two legs, and with the ends of the open ‘U’ shape being supported by the ground or floor. A strengthening pole 111 is fixed in the opening of the front leg assembly 11 and a strengthening pole 121 is fixed in the opening of the rear leg assembly 12. Each of strengthening poles 111 and 121 are have two ends fixed to the legs of the respective leg assembly 11 or 12. Each of strengthening poles 111 and 121 is bent upward in its midsection relative to its ends, with the midsections of strengthening poles 111 and 121 being fixed to the midsections of the top portion of front and rear leg assemblies 11 and 12, respectively. The upward bend provides space underneath toilet-sitting appliance 10 for a conventional flushable toilet.
Telescopic extension pipes 5 are set on and held to the feet-ends of front and rear leg assemblies 11 and 12. Extension pipes 5 are preferably made of aluminum. Spring fasteners 51, are set at the bottom of front and rear leg assemblies 11 and 12, and a number of vertically-spaced select spring holes 52 are set on the corresponding extension pipes 5. Extension pipes 5 are held in place at a desired height when spring fasteners 51 mate with desired spring holes 52.
Spring fasteners 51 include a spring-loaded pin that is urged through a hole from inside the pipe which forms each leg assembly 11 or 12. Those skilled in the art will appreciate that in this type of spring fastener 130, the pin is fixed to an end of a linear spring that is folded inside the pipe, with the pin projecting out of the hole, radially outward from the axis of the pipe. The pin can be pushed toward the interior of the pipe against the spring, but will pop out when it meets no resistance to outward movement, such as when it is aligned with one of spring holes 52. The interior wall of the pipe stops the spring and pin from moving beyond a predetermined outward distance. The ends of extension pipes 5 on front leg assembly 11 are covered with slip-resistant, plastic coverings 112, and the ends of extension pipes 5 on rear leg assembly 12 are covered with slip-resistant, plastic coverings 122 to protect the floor from being marred.
The four side-support bodies 13 include two top side-support bodies 131 and two foot side-support bodies 132. Each side-support body 13 is a U-shaped pipe. A preferably straight strengthening pole 133 is fixed in the opening and between the sides of the U-shaped top side-support bodies 131. Four connectors 3 are rigidly fixed to leg assemblies 11 and 12, with one connector 3 fixed to each leg. Connectors 3 are fixed using an attachment technique suitable for bariatric applications, such as welding or soldering. In particular, each connector is fixed in a location so that when toilet-sitting appliance 10 is in its open condition it is located on the side of its respective leg that points along the edge of toilet-sitting appliance 10 and faces the other leg assembly 11 or 12. Each connector 3 is a straight pipe having an inside diameter slightly larger than the outside diameter of the pipes from which side-support bodies 13 are formed.
Near each of the eight ends of the four side-support bodies 13 a hole is formed as one part of each of eight spring fasteners 130. Spring fasteners 130 are configured similarly to spring fasteners 51 discussed above.
Spring fasteners 130 cooperate with corresponding slide notches 31 formed in connectors 3, near the ends of each connector 3. Each slide notch 31 extends horizontally for a distance of approximately 90° around the circumference of its connector 3. The ends of side-support bodies 13 are placed within corresponding connectors 3 by depressing the pins of the spring fasteners 130 to permit the ends to fit within connectors 3. Then, the ends of side-support bodies 13 are vertically positioned within connectors 3 so that the pins of spring fasteners 130 are aligned with slide notches 31. When this happens, the pins of spring fasteners 130 pop outward into slide notches 31. The pins from spring fasteners 130 project beyond the outer walls of the pipes from which side-support bodies 13 are formed well into and preferably through slide notches 31 within connectors 3.
The phase of the 90° circumferential extent for each slide notch 31 is established to accommodate the closed/folded and open/unfolded configurations of toilet-sitting appliance 10. In particular, when in the open configuration, spring fasteners 130 are positioned at the extreme clockwise position of each slide notch 31, and in the closed configuration, spring fasteners 130 are positioned away from this extreme clockwise position, preferably near the extreme counter-clockwise position. In order to reconfigure toilet-sitting appliance 10 between its closed and open positions, without top 2 being attached, frame assembly 1 is twisted so that side-support bodies 13 pivot within connectors 3. During this operation, spring fasteners 130 slide within slide notches 31.
A plastic covering 4 acts as a bushing that resides between the outer wall of each side-support body 13 and the inner wall its corresponding connector 3. Plastic covering 4 exhibits a thickness that causes side-support bodies 13 to tightly fit within connectors 3 and eliminate wobble. Plastic covering 4 also protects against rusting an scratching. Plastic coverings 4 are desirably configured with a slide notch that matches slide notch 31. In a preferred embodiment, plastic coverings 4 include a tab (not shown) that fits within a notch in connectors 3 to register plastic covering 4 so that the respective slide notches align.
A backrest support 6 is formed from another U-shaped tubular member. Backrest support 6 is welded, riveted, cross-pinned, or screw-bolted to the uppermost portion of rear leg assembly 12 so that it projects upward and possibly rearward a small distance from rear leg assembly 12. The width of backrest support 6 is desirably less than the width of rear leg assembly 12. Desirably, backrest support 6 is fixed to rear leg assembly in a symmetrical and centered manner. When toilet-sitting appliance 10 is used by being placed over a conventional flushable toilet, the toilet seat lid of the conventional toilet may be inserted through the gap between backrest support 6 and the top of rear leg assembly 12 to serve as a toilet seat lid for toilet-sitting appliance 10 as well. By having backrest support 6 less wide than rear leg assembly 12, toilet-sitting appliance 10 is easier to align centered over the conventional flushable toilet. In addition, by having backrest support 6 less wide than rear leg assembly 12, costs and weight is reduced.
Top 2 is desirably configured as a blow-molded panel. A concave hole 21 exists in the central region of this panel.
Several attachment clips 22 are fixedly attached on the bottom surface of top 2. Clips 22 are configured to attach to the top portion of leg assemblies 11 and 12. Clips 22 may be attached to top 2 at its bottom surface, but are preferably integrally molded into the bottom surface when top 2 is formed. A cross-section of clips 22 resembles a portion of a circle having a diameter approximately equal to the outside diameter of the leg assemblies 11 and 12. Clip material covers more than 180° of this circle so that the clip material must deflect to snap onto leg assemblies 11 and 12, then return to its resting shape due to a natural resilience of the clip material. Any number of clips 22 may be present on the bottom surface of top 2.
In use, top 2 may be removed from frame assembly 1 and side-support bodies 13 may be removed from connectors 3 for the most space-efficient storage and shipment solution. In this solution, leg assemblies 11 and 12 and side-support bodies 13 may be laid together and packaged with top 2, for transportation. This greatly reduces the volume needed to box toilet-sitting appliance 10 and increases the number of toilet-sitting appliances 10 that may be stocked at a store or transported in a given amount of space.
When purchased by a user, the user can press spring fasteners 130 at the ends of side-support bodies 131 and 132 and insert these ends to the corresponding connectors 3 on the front and rear leg assemblies 11 and 12. As each spring fastener 130 moves vertically within its connector 30, it eventually encounters a slide notch 31. When a slide notch 31 is encountered, the spring fastener 130 pops radially outward, vertically locking the side-support body 13 to the respective leg assembly 11 or 12. While the side-support body 13 cannot move vertically relative to its respective leg assembly 11 or 12, it can nevertheless pivot or move horizontally for a distance defined by the phase over which slide notch 31 circumferentially extends within its connector 3. Thus, the side-support body 13 can pivot relative to its connector 3, completing the assembly of the brace 1.
When used, front and rear leg assemblies 11 and 12 and side-support bodies 13 are collectively pivoted or unfolded to the open position for brace 1. During the process of unfolding, the ends of the side-support bodies 13 pivot within connectors 3, and spring fasteners 130 move within slide notches 31. Then, top 2 is attached to the now-open brace 1 by attaching clips 22, and toilet-sitting appliance 10 is setup and ready to be sat upon. Desirably, top 2 is aligned in the center from left-to-right of toilet-sitting appliance 10 for maximum safety and reduced likelihood of tipping. But such an alignment is easily accomplished by visual alignment relative to reduced-width backrest support 6. In this first embodiment, toilet-sitting appliance 10 may now be positioned over and aligned with a conventional flushable toilet, and the toilet-seat lid may be inserted through the gap between rear leg assembly 12 and backrest support 6. Backrest support 6 can now support the toilet seat lid when pivoted to a raised position. The height of toilet-sitting appliance 10 may be adjusted to match the conventional flushable toilet height by adjusting extension pipes 5.
When the user needs to fold toilet-sitting appliance 10 to its closed position for storage or transportation, top 2 is removed by pulling upward, and the tear-down or folding operation is completed simply by causing side-support bodies 13 to pivot within connectors 3. During this pivoting operation, spring fasteners 130 move within slide notches 31 of the connectors 3. And, when desired, an even greater space efficiency may result from completely removing side-support bodies 13 from connectors 3 by pressing spring fasteners 130 and removing side-support bodies 13 from connectors 3.
FIG. 5 shows a second embodiment of foldable toilet-sitting appliance 10. In this second embodiment, toilet-sitting appliance 10 again includes brace 1 and top 2. But in this second embodiment, a toilet or bowl 23 is removably attached under opening 21 in top 2, a toilet cover 24 is provided for removable placement over opening 21 of top 2, and a toilet seat cover 25 is attached to and pivots about rear leg assembly 12 through the use of clips 22. This second embodiment forms a full commode which need not be used with a flushable toilet, but may be used in combination with a flushable toilet by removing bowl 23.
In summary, the present invention provides an improved foldable toilet-sitting appliance that is suitable for bariatric and/or patients whose mobility may be restricted. The foldable toilet-sitting appliance is easily opened for use and easily folded for storage. A reduced-size backstop structure is centrally mounted to the rear leg assembly in a manner that encourages the sitting surface to remain centered within the appliance.
Although the preferred embodiments of the invention have been illustrated and described in detail, it will be readily apparent to those skilled in the art that various modifications may be made therein without departing from the spirit of the invention or from the scope of the appended claims. For example the terms “top,” “bottom,” “foot,” “upper,” “lower,” “vertical,” “horizontal,” and the like, have been used to indicate relative orientations of items during normal use of the commode. Those skilled in the art will understand that nothing requires such items to maintain such orientations at all times.