Veterans Affairs

Four new bathing equipment designs for independent living

Roll-in shower system, bathing chair, ottoman, and platform for elderly or disabled people

Medical & Biotechnology

Research engineers funded by the Department of Veterans Affairs have developed a roll-in shower system for wheelchair-bound patients, a portable bathing seat and ottoman, and a bathing platform to assist the independent living of elderly and disabled individuals. The patent-pending inventions can be licensed to companies individually or as a collection so that they may make, use, or sell them as commercial products.

The drawing illustrates the portable ottoman positioned on a shower surface adjacent to the companion bathing chair. (Patent drawing)

The National Center for Health Statistics reports that about 10% of all people over the age of 65 have difficulty bathing and showering but that six percent receive help with these tasks.  

This cross-section of the bathing platform installed on a standard bathtub comprises a first and second well (40, 42) that are connected by a channel. Support ridges (23) increase stability and a drain tube (30) connects the platform drain to the bathtub drain. (Patent drawing)

The devices can be used separately or together to provide support and safety during bathing, dressing, and grooming activities. 

The components include a portable bathing seat that can be used with a righthand or a lefthand bathtub or in a standard shower. One benefit of the chair is for patients who cannot transfer from their wheelchair to the bottom of a bathtub or cannot stand in the shower long enough. The seat can be configured to rest on two or more feet and straddles the rim of the bathtub, or may be positioned on the surface of a shower stall. Whether in the bathtub or the shower, the bathing seat assists in the safe transfer of wheelchairbound patients, providing a transfer surface at a height similar to the wheelchair, an angled transfer pommel, heightadjustable legs, and a ballast reservoir that adds stability. A contoured and angled backrest with a drainage trough and a seat cushion with drainage cutout help keep the user comfortable and secure. 

The roll-in shower unit is comprised of a base attached to side walls and a door with a handle. The ramp allows roll-in access, and the walls provide a recess to secure a removable window. (Patent drawing)

The bathing seat can be paired with the portable ottoman invention for increased comfort and safety. The ottoman includes a footwell with sidewalls that prevent the legs from sliding, an angled platform extending down into the footwell, a drain at the bottom of the footwell for drainage, a cushion on the angled platform and the side walls, and a carrying handle.  

When only a bathtub is available, a new removable bathing platform is designed to rest on the front rim and the other three sides of standard size bathtub. The platform features a height similar to wheelchair height and a higher rim, a contoured backrest, a deep leg and feet soaking area, and a drain that connects to the main bathtub drain. The new concept has been prototyped and tested by paraplegic volunteers. Its symmetrical design enables placement over at least a portion of the length and width of a right hand or lefthand bathtub. And the setup and removal are quick and easy, eliminating the need for permanent installation. These design features distinguish the platform from similar devices.

For wheelchair users, the researchers developed an improved modular roll-in shower system that does not require any significant bathroom modification and can be installed anywhere in a home where hoses can be connected to a water source and a drain. Several features assist individuals in showering independently, such as larger shower stall dimensions to accommodate the extra width of a wheelchair, an angled floor and water trough for drainage, and an appropriately-sized handle on the self-opening and closing doors. Once the hinged door closes on its own after the individual enters the stall, the door jam engages to provide a water-tight seal. Sidewall openings and removable windows can facilitate optional access for caregiver support. 

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