Toilets for elderly & disabled users: this article provides information about using tall height toilets or chemical toilets or composting toilets for elderly or disabled people for convenience (close access) or to avoid the effects of medication on septic tank bacteria. Our page top photo shows a fully automatic composting toilet.
Below we describe chemical and composting toilets for disabled, sick, or elderly people's use. Waterless toilets, low-water toilets, and other alternative toilet designs may solve practical problems in providing convenient, sanitary facilities for temporary or even longer term care of elderly, disabled, sick, or injured people. Special care needs to be taken to provide proper toilet height, grab rails, and maintenance.
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At TOILET TYPES, CONTROLS, PARTS we discuss various heights of toilets and recommend taller toilets for people who may have difficulty sitting down on or rising up from other toilet models. Readers should also see ALTERNATIVE & WATERLESS TOILETS for a discussion of Camping & Emergency Use Toilets, chemical toilets, waterless toilets, graywater systems, composting toilets, home health care toilets, incinerating toilets, outhouses, and latrines.
Question about using a chemical toilet because medications are killing septic tank bacteria:
My uncle is on some medication that has killed all the bacteria in our septic system. We were told the only way to get the bacteria back was to stop having my uncle use the septic system and we needed to get him a chemical toilet. What do you suggest we get. We have to be able to use it in the house because he is disabled. We have to solved the problem of the stinky septic ASAP. - K.H.
Toilets for the disabled or elderly that are connected to building plumbing and municipal sewer or private septic systems are different from other models principally in their height above the floor. But if you need to use a separate toilet that is not connected to plumbing, either for physical convenience or to avoid placing excreted medications into a septic system, alternatives are available.
The most simple solution to your problem would be using a portable camping toilet as we describe below. Alternatively, the chemical and waterless toilets we describe here may be suitable, depending on how far you'll have to travel to empty the toilet into a municipal sewer or an RV dumping station.
Use a chemical toilet: A very simple, inexpensive chemical toilet is something you can purchase immediately, for example at camping or RV suppliers, or online even at Amazon.com where we purchased the very inexpensive Century portable chemical toilet shown at left.
Possible use of a composting toilet: Alternatively, you may find that some composting toilet manufacturers produce a completely self-contained unit that is also suitable. Some composting toilets are already taller than the simple chemical toilet we show here, avoiding the need to elevate the toilet for comfortable use.
The photograph at above left is of the Century 6205 2.6-Gallon Portable Toilet by Century Tool, a portable toilet which uses chemicals to deodorize and disinfect toilet waste.
We built the wooden platform shown underneath this toilet in order to raise the seat height to a more comfortable position, but in normal use this toilet works just fine placed directly on a floor or on the ground outdoors.
Version I of our wooden chemical toilet height platform is shown at the top of this page.
Version II of our chemical toilet height increase platform that added railings and a wider platform for greater stability is shown just below - we call this version, constructed in 2014 the Throne.
The ADA Accessibility Guidelines (ADA 4.16) & ADA Fig. 29b specify that the height of water closets (toilets) shall be 17 inches to 19 inches, measured to the top of the toilet seat.
You will probably need to build a stable, secure wooden base to elevate the toilet so that the top of the seat is 18" or 19" above the floor - otherwise an elderly or disabled person may have5trouble getting up and down from the toilet.
In our photograph (left) and at How to Use & Maintain a Chemical Toilet you can see an example of a wooden base that we built for this purpose.
And you'll want nearby grab rails consistent with ADA 4.26 & ADA Fig. 29b. These aids are missing in our photograph (above-left).
Our wooden base included 1" x 1" rails around its perimeter and spaced to assure that the toilet would not slide around or move off of the base. For an elderly or disabled person you may also need to secure the base to the floor. Don't secure or glue the toilet itself to the wooden base as you'll need to be able to lift it away for emptying or cleaning.
Accessible Chemical Toilet Improvements: height increase + side railings
Designed by Jennifer Church and constructed by the author, the Throne added a 3-inch bottom platform that raised the seat height of the porta-potty to about 19" from the floor. That's the maximum height recommended by the ADA though some users may prefer 20".
We added very strong side-railings and a back rail both to keep the toilet from tipping off of its platform and to make its use easier for those who like a grab railing to ease sitting and standing.
Because there are rails on two sides of this toilet it's not necessarily wheelchair accessible as for some users we'd need the 60" open side clearance. For example, for wheelchair access I'd suggest that the toilet would need to be open on one side, provided with more grab rails, and would need to be secured against tipping.
We might also need to extend the length of the side rails.
We made the side-to-side width of the platform about 22" and its height 3". This arrangement feels quite secure but if we needed to add still more sideways stability we'd affix a horizontal board at floor level and attached to the back of the platform to provide outriggers. To date that hasn't been needed.
If you need to provide seat height and grabrails that meet ADA specifications for accessible designs see
Other common portable toilets include models from Thetford®, Sears®, the Coleman®, and Reliance® toilets who provide a hassock model portable chemical toilet.
See COMPOSTING TOILETS for possible models that may also be suitable for elderly or disabled use.
Watch out: before using a composting toilet to receive waste from people whose medications include lots of antibiotics or other medicines that may kill bacteria, discuss the question with the composting toilet manufacturer. If the medications kill bacteria in a septic tank, the same drugs will certainly kill bacteria necessary for a composting toilet system to work properly.
At ALTERNATIVE & WATERLESS TOILETS you'll see we list other more sophisticated (and much more costly) types of waterless toilets - most of these will require installation by an expert as they include vent piping and in some cases an external reservoir tank. These are more permanent installations, but the result is a more "normal" looking toilet that is bolted to the floor.
For short term use a camping toilet can be as easy as a chemical toilet to place close to bedside or in an otherwise accessible location for disabled, sick, or elderly person use.
Watch out: a free-standing portable toilet may be tippy or a bit short; you may need to provide grab rails or personal assistance to make using a portable toilet easy and safe for people who are disabled.
Camping toilets are among the most simple and rudimentary facilities to provide and operate.
Please see our detailed article about camping and emergency use toilets found at CAMPING & EMERGENCY TOILETS. Two types of portable camp toilets are produced:
Toilet seat with legs: a folding frame supports a toilet seat that in turn holds a suspended plastic bag used to collect waste. After use the plastic bag is sealed for disposal. Our photo (far left) shows a typical portable camping toilet. This portable camp toilet, model 560, produced by Rothco, uses a folding steel frame to support a molded plastic toilet seat and plastic bag.
Plastic bucket type portable toilet: shown in our photo (close left) a pail and drum type portable toilet uses a plastic bucket that collects waste for later disposal. These toilets are also quite inexpensive, often less than $40. U.S. Two bucket type portable toilet producers are Coleman (non-flush portable toilet) and the Reliance Hassock Portable Toilet. In an emergency, you can fabricate a bucket type portable toilet using a five-gallon joint compound bucket and heavy plastic bags to collect the waste.
Thetford Corporation lists ten of their portable chemical toilet products as suitable for home or bedside use and for the physically challenged.
For some circumstances, a more sophisticated toilet may be suitable for home health care. Our photo (left) shows the ThetfordElectraMagic Model 80 RV recirculating 100% self-contained toilet that is intended for more permanent installation. This toilet can be battery operated, and can be connected to an external tank for increased capacity. This toilet was designed for use in RVs and boats and uses very little water. It requires a 12V or 24V D.C. electrical hookup. (It can be powered by a car battery, for example.) Thetford's
Aqua-Kem liquid holding tank deodorant is used with these products. We discuss chemical toilet products and deodorants at How to Use & Maintain a Chemical Toilet.
Unlike some of the chemical toilets we discuss here, the Thetford Electra Magic seat height is roughly 18" above the floor and may be easier to get on and off-of for the disabled.
Portable toilets include these brands: Thetford Porta Potti, SeaLand’s SaniPottie, Coleman Portable Toilet, Fiamma Bi-Pots, Century Portable Toilet, Dometic Sani Porti, Visa Potty, Companion Eziloo and Primus Deluxe Portable Loo. CONTACT us to add other portable or camping or alternative toilets and products.
Please see our detailed article about camping and emergency use toilets found at Camping & Emergency Toilets.
Elderly or Disabled Assistance with Maintenance of Chemical or Composting Toilets
Simple chemical toilets require that the user, or an aide, open the flush valve after use so that waste can spill into the bottom reservoir, then push a plunger to wash the bowl with fresh water, then close the valve.
Where to Empty the Chemical Toilet:
When the bottom reservoir is getting full it is separated from the top half of the toilet by two clips and emptied into a plumbed toilet or septic tank.
But if your purpose was to avoid placing excreted medications into a private septic system or tank, you will need to empty the toilet reservoir into a toilet that is served by a municipal sewer or perhaps an RV dumping station. RV HOLDING TANK DUMP INTO SEPTIC TANK? discusses this topic.
This is an easy, simple system, but requires assistance from someone besides the user if an elderly or disabled person is involved - at least to empty the tank on occasion. A chemical deodorant placed in the base is inexpensive and keeps things pleasant and sanitary.
Product submissions are welcome Contact Us. No conflicts of interest: We have no financial business relationship nor any other economic relationship with any product or service discussed at this website.
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