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Waste handling apparatus for wheelchair

Abstract
A waste disposal system which is incorporated into a wheelchair. The system is compact enough to be installed in a standard sized motorized or manual wheelchair. The system allows for the separation of solid waste from liquid waste, with separate receptacles allowing for separate containment. The system may be incorporated into both collapsible and non-collapsible wheelchairs with minimal modification. In order to facilitate incorporation into a collapsible wheelchair, at least one of the components of the system is hinged at a point corresponding to the folding axis of the collapsible wheelchair. The other components are either selectively removable or attachable to the wheelchair without adding a significant amount of weight or girth thereto. The separate receptacles for containing solid and liquid waste may be separately emptied and cleaned.

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Inventors: Marinas, Angeles; (El Sobrante, CA)
Correspondence Name and Address: Alfred F. Hoyte, Esq.,
Suite 700
733 15th Street, N.W.
Washington
DC
20005
US


Serial No.: 866478
Series Code: 10
Filed: June 14, 2004

U.S. Current Class: 4/480
U.S. Class at Publication: 004/480
Intern'l Class: A47K 011/06

 

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Claims

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What is claimed is:

1. A waste disposal system comprising: a seat portion, said seat portion having a substantially planar main top panel with a central aperture, said seat portion having a coupling means dependent from an edge region; a solid waste receptacle contained within said seat portion, said solid waste receptacle having a contoured bottom surface shaped to direct fluid flow to a drain opening; a conduit in fluid communication with said drain opening and adapted for fluid tight coupling to one end of a length of flexible tubing; and, a liquid waste receptacle fluidly coupled to an opposing end of said flexible tubing; whereby solid waste is accumulated on the bottom surface of said solid waste receptacle, and liquid waste is directed to said liquid waste receptacle.

2. The system of claim 1 including cushioning means sized for placement on said top panel of said seat portion, said cushioning means having an opening aligned with said central aperture in said seat portion when positioned on said seat portion.

3. The system of claim 1 wherein said liquid waste container includes an opening for fluid coupling to said tubing, said opening sized to reduce spillage of said liquid waste when tubing is released from said opening.

4. The system of claim 1 including garments adapted to be worn by patients using said system, said garment including an open seat portion with a movable flap portion, whereby said open seat portion may be positioned over the central aperture in the seat portion.
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Description

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BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

[0001] This invention relates generally to waste disposal systems. More specifically, the invention relates to a portable waste containment and disposal system which may be integrated into a wheelchair.

[0002] Statement of the Prior Art

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

[0003] A common problem with wheelchair bound persons is that of incontinence. The problem is particularly acute for those who are paralyzed, for they cannot even sense when a bowel movement or urination event occurs. Accordingly, many devices have been proposed to minimize the negative implications of uncontrolled urination or defecation by wheelchair bound persons. These devices fall generally into two broad categories. The first category is diapers or other absorbent garments which are worn by the person at all times and changed periodically. While generally effective at containing the waste and preventing soiling of the garments and wheelchair, absorbent garments and the like suffer from drawbacks. Among the drawbacks, the patient is required to sit, possibly for a considerable period of time, in the soiled garment. The prolonged period of contact with urine and feces can lead to skin infections and pressure sores, which can be especially difficult to treat in elderly patients or patients with compromised immune systems. In order to prevent this problem, the garments would have to removed and replaced after every urination or bowel movement which is not practical even for patients in nursing homes. Also, disposable diapers are expensive and create a great deal of refuse, which refuse tends to have a strong odor requiring special disposal containers. Finally, the patient usually cannot change the garment without help even if he/she has full use of his/her upper body.

[0004] In order to deal with the aforementioned problems, portable "potty" systems have been developed, some of which can be attached to or incorporated into a wheelchair. These systems tend to be overly complicated and therefore expensive and subject to maintenance, or too simplistic and therefore ineffective.

[0005] U.S. Pat. No. 5,564,136 issued to Cox discloses an incontinence seat for a wheelchair. A seat insert having a central opening allows waste to be dropped into a waste bag which is periodically emptied. This system, and other similar systems suffer from several drawbacks. First, the waste is collected in a bag which, although stably supported, can still move around enough to cause sloshing of the waste which increases the chance of seepage and leaking over time. Even if the bag were replaced with a solid container, there would be considerable sloshing of the waste.

[0006] U.S. Pat. No. 4,997,426 issued to Dingeman et al. discloses a catheter drainage system which allows for accumulation of urine in a bag which is supported in underlying relation to the wheelchair seat. This highly specialized system is not generally useful for most wheelchair bound patients and does not have any means for collecting and maintaining solid waste. Also, the waste is contained in a bag and is subject to the aforementioned problems.

[0007] U.S. Pat. No. 4,365,363 issued to Windauer discloses another urine collection device. A shallow tray disposed immediately beneath the patient directs urine to a rigid collection pan which may be integral with the tray. Windauer has no means for collecting solid waste as does the present invention.

[0008] U.S. Pat. No. 5,926,875 issued to Okamoto et al. discloses a flush toilet integrated with a bed. While this complicated system, which includes a water supply and flushing mechanism, is capable of handling both solid and liquid waste, it cannot be used with a wheelchair.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

[0009] The present invention provides a waste disposal system which is incorporated into a wheelchair. The system is compact enough to be installed in a standard sized motorized or manual wheelchair. The system allows for the separation of solid waste from liquid waste, with separate receptacles allowing for separate containment. Waste is directed into the receptacles via an opening formed in a weight bearing panel used in place of the conventional wheelchair seat. The system may be incorporated into both collapsible and non-collapsible wheelchairs with minimal modification. In order to facilitate incorporation into a collapsible wheelchair, at least one of the components of the system is hinged at a point corresponding to the folding axis of the collapsible wheelchair. The other components are either selectively removable or attachable to the wheelchair without adding a significant amount of weight or girth thereto. The separate receptacles for containing solid and liquid waste may be separately emptied and cleaned. The system includes special garments having an opening corresponding to the opening in the weight bearing panel.

[0010] Accordingly, it is a principal object of the invention to provide an improved waste handling apparatus for a wheelchair.

[0011] It is another object of the invention to provide an improved waste handling apparatus for a wheelchair which can receive and contain both solid and liquid waste.

[0012] It is another object of the invention to provide an improved waste handling apparatus for a wheelchair which allows for separate containment of solid and liquid waste.

[0013] It is another object of the invention to provide an improved waste handling apparatus for a wheelchair having means to minimize sloshing and spillage of liquid waste.

[0014] These and other objects of the present invention will become readily apparent upon further review of the following specification and drawings.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

[0015] Various other objects, features, and attendant advantages of the present invention will become more fully appreciated as the same becomes better understood when considered in conjunction with the accompanying drawings, in which like reference characters designate the same or similar parts throughout the several views, and wherein:

[0016] FIG. 1 shows a perspective view of a wheelchair incorporating the waste handling system of the invention.

[0017] FIG. 2 shows a perspective view illustrating the interrelation of the components of the waste handling system of the invention.

[0018] FIG. 3 shows a perspective view of the solid waste containing component of the waste handling system of the invention.

[0019] FIG. 4 shows a plan view of the urine containing component of the waste handling system of the invention.

[0020] FIGS. 5A-C show a garment which may be worn by patients seated on the waste handling system of the invention.

[0021] FIGS. 6A and B show an alternative embodiment of a garment which may be worn by patients seated on the waste handling system of the invention.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION

[0022] Referring now to FIGS. 1-6B, the waste handling system of the present invention, generally designated by the numeral 10, are shown. FIG. 1 is a perspective view of a wheelchair 12 incorporating a preferred embodiment of the system of the present invention. The invention 10 includes a seat insert 20 attached to vertical wheelchair risers 22 with wheelchair fasteners 24. Screws, bolts, pins and similar coupling means may be used to secure and tighten fasteners 24 about risers 22, fastener 24 preferably being in the form of a rail clamp. Fasteners 24 depend from one end of mounting rails 25, with rails 25 preferably additionally secured along sidebars 27 with appropriate fastening means (not shown) as would be apparent to one of skill in the art. Thus the seat insert 20 may be secured in weight bearing relation on the wheelchair 12. Seat insert 20 has a centrally disposed hole 26 or opening which defines a waste receiving area. A cushion 30 may be attached to the seat insert 20 by any suitable means such as seat straps. Cushion 30 has a cushion hole 34 in the center aligned with seat insert hole 26. The solid waste receptacle 38 may be used as a stand alone bed pan as shown in FIG. 3. In an alternative arrangement, cushion 30 has a rigid substrate and/or edge regions and is attached to risers 22 and/or side bars 27 and serves as the primary weight bearing seating member, allowing removal of both solid and liquid waste containers while the user remains seated as will be explained in more detail later.

[0023] With particular reference to FIG. 2, the relation of the seat insert 20 to the waste containment receptacles is shown. It can be seen that the seat insert 20 has a substantially planar top panel 35 within which opening 26 is formed. Solid waste enters through opening 26 settling onto contoured bottom surface 37 of the seat insert 20. Thus, the seat insert 20 is essentially a solid waste receptacle 38 formed of top panel 35 and contoured bottom surface 37 and mounted in weight bearing relation to a standard wheelchair with mounting rails 25. The insert 20 may be made from a rigid material such as a hard plastic. Alternatively, a flexible material may be used, with care taken to ensure that the material can support a substantial amount of weight as the insert 20 is the primary weight bearing member. Also, if a flexible material is used as the insert 20, care must be taken to select a material which will not sag or hang excessively. Contoured bottom surface 37 serves to direct any fluid (i.e. liquid waste) to a drain opening 42 formed therein, the drain opening including a plug 43 to allow the receptacle 38 to be used as a bedpan. Downwardly depending flanges 45 serve to stabilize the solid waste receptacle 38 when placed on a bed or other surface for stand alone use.

[0024] A relatively short downwardly depending conduit 44 has one end fluidly coupled to drain opening 42, while the opposing end is coupled to a flexible conduit or tubing 46. A liquid waste receptacle 50 (FIG. 4) having an elongated main body 52, which may be cylindrical or rectangular, has a connector 54 releasably attached thereto which fluidly couples conduit 46 to the interior of main body 52 via opening 53. This opening 53, which may include a filter screen (not shown), has a relatively small diameter so that even if tubing 46 is inadvertently disconnected there will not be excessive spillage of the receptacle contents. The receptacle 50 preferably has a window 60 to permit visual determination of the fluid level to prevent overflowing of the liquid waste. If the liquid receptacle 50 is full, backflow will accumulate in the solid waste receptacle 38 and not leak out of the system 10, so that the window 60 serves primarily to encourage frequent emptying to maintain optimal sanitary conditions. It can be seen that the window 60 extends longitudinally to allow for vertical positioning. The window 60 may also extend horizontally to facilitate horizontal positioning of the receptacle 50. Of course, the liquid receptacle 50 may be made of a clear material such as a clear plastic, but it can be appreciated that the patient may wish to be discreet about the contents of the receptacle. Electronic alarm means (not shown) may be provided to give the patient a visual or audible indication that the receptacle 50 is full.

[0025] An attachment means 59 extending from receptacle 50, may be in the form of a connector having a pair of screws or bolts 61 projecting therefrom, the bolts adapted for projecting through apertures formed in lateral crossbar 63 attached to the lower portion of the wheelchair frame 12. Suitable fastening means may be used to secure the bolts to the crossbar 63. Alternatively, a pair of straps (not shown) are placed proximate end portions of the receptacle 50, the straps secured to the wheelchair frame 12.

[0026] An alternative configuration for the receptacle is shown in FIG. 5. This embodiment features a receptacle 70 that can be used as a male urinary. The receptacle has a sloped top end 72 terminating in an opening 74 sized to receive a connector which secures and positions drain tube 46 as discussed above. A handle 76 is provided, as is a transparent gauge 78.

[0027] In use, after the existing wheelchair seat is removed, seat insert 20 is placed onto the wheelchair frame 12 using a secure fastening means as described above. Flexible tubing 46 is then attached to conduit 44, the tubing 46 sized for frictional fit over the conduit 44 in fluid tight relation thereto. Liquid waste receptacle 50 is then secured into position, and the open end of tubing 46 is connected into connector 54. The system 10 is now ready for use. When the patient has a bowel movement, it accumulates on the bottom surface 40 of the solid waste receptacle 38. Any liquid waste will flow down into drain opening 42, into and through conduit 46, and ultimately into receptacle 50. When either receptacle 38, 50 is full, or at other opportune times, they can be detached, rinsed, and repositioned as described above. A deodorizing means (not shown) may be attached to reduce odors, the system 10 may include a means for selectively activating the deodorizing means when the user notices unpleasant aromas. The deodorizing means may also include a scent detector to trigger activation, or may activate periodically.

[0028] In accordance with another aspect of the invention, special garments are provided for use with the system 10. The garments 110, 112, are in the form of a pair of pants 110, or a skirt 112, having an opening in the seat portion. The pants 110 may have a flap covering attached at the top of the pant 110 so as to fall naturally in place when the user is standing, thereby blocking the opening 118 in the pants 118. The skirt 112 may be provided with a similar flap by extending rear portion 120 to cover skirt opening 122. Leggings 130, shown in FIG. 5C, may be used to cover the lower legs of the user, the leggings 130 have an elastic waist belt 132, and suspenders 134 to position the leggings appropriately to simulate pants. The leggings 130 may also be used with the skirt 112. Both garments 110, 112 are designed so that the openings 122, 118 can be positioned over opening 26 in seat insert 20 when the user is seated, so that the user does not have to remove or reposition clothing in order to use the system.

[0029] From the foregoing description, one skilled in the art can easily ascertain the essential characteristics of this invention and, without departing from the spirit and scope thereof, can make various changes and modifications of the invention to adapt it to various usages and conditions.

[0030] It is to be understood that the present invention is not limited to the sole embodiment described above, but encompasses any and all embodiments within the scope of the following claims:

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