Title:
Affordable bath lift and method therefor
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
A bath lift for easily transferring a user into and out of a bathtub. The bather inflates the bath lift with liquid from a liquid source in order to raise the bath lift to a height of a chair. By inflating the bath lift with liquid, the bath lift conforms to the sides of the bathtub and provides a safe and secure seat for a bather to sit on. After inflating the bath lift and sitting onto the bath lift, the bather releases the liquid from the bath lift into the bathtub. As a result, the bather is safely and slowly lowered into the bathtub. Once the bather has finished bathing, the bather inflates the bath lift once again to raise the bath lift to the height of a chair. The bather then exits from the bathtub, thereby making the task of bathing oneself simple again.



Inventors:
Bigda, Richard J. (Sedona, AZ, US)
Application Number:
10/924153
Publication Date:
03/17/2005
Filing Date:
08/23/2004
Assignee:
BIGDA RICHARD J.
Primary Class:
International Classes:
A61G7/10; (IPC1-7): A47K3/02
View Patent Images:
Related US Applications:
20090036848PORTABLE URINAL AND METHOD FOR USEFebruary, 2009Faiola
20080235857Cushion paper assembly for toilet seatOctober, 2008Tzeng
20060137087Spa with integrally molded working components and method for making sameJune, 2006Carreau et al.
20010044952Portable marine privacy toiletNovember, 2001Becker
20030208840Variable speed electrical motor without centrifugal switchNovember, 2003Loyd et al.
20050091738Apparatus and methods for forming deck edging for swimming poolsMay, 2005Smith
20060053549Water faucetMarch, 2006Wei
20080237397Flushing device and flushing method for a vacuum toiletOctober, 2008Seibt
20090249541Food Preparation SinkOctober, 2009Aykens et al.
20020095125Collapsible container for receiving waste body fluidsJuly, 2002Parker
20050174245System for monitoring water within a bathtubAugust, 2005Delaney et al.



Primary Examiner:
FETSUGA, ROBERT M
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
WEISS & MOY, P.C. (4455 E. CAMELBACK ROAD SUITE E-261, PHOENIX, AZ, 85018, US)
Claims:
1. A bath lift comprising: a flexible liquid-tight container for holding and storing a liquid; and a valve assembly coupled to the flexible liquid-tight container for inflating the flexible liquid-tight container with liquid to a height for a bather to enter and exit from a bathtub and for releasing the liquid into the bathtub to lower the bather into the bathtub.

2. A bath lift in accordance with claim 1 wherein the flexible liquid-tight container comprises: a vertical column; a top section connected to a top area of the vertical column; and a bottom section connected to bottom area of the vertical column.

3. A bath lift in accordance with claim 2 wherein the flexible liquid-tight container comprises a plurality of reinforcing strips coupled to the vertical column to reinforce and preserve a shape of the flexible liquid-tight container container.

4. A bath lift in accordance with claim 1 wherein the flexible liquid-tight container is made of a washable flexible polymer film.

5. A bath lift in accordance with claim 4 wherein the flexible liquid-tight container is made of at least one of heavy gauge polyvinyl chloride, polyethylene, polypropylene, or a heavy gauge plastic film.

6. A bath lift in accordance with claim 3 wherein the plurality of reinforcing strips is made of at least one of plastic foam, fiberglass, or metal.

7. A bath lift in accordance with claim 1 wherein the flexible liquid-tight container has a width approximately a size of a width of the bathtub, the flexible liquid-tight container expanding to press against the bathtub to secure the liquid-tight container from tipping and tilting.

8. A bath lift in accordance with claim 1 wherein the flexible liquid-tight container has a length approximately a size of a length of the bathtub.

9. A bath lift in accordance with claim 8 wherein the flexible liquid-tight container further comprises a headrest coupled to a top surface of the flexible liquid-tight container.

10. A bath lift in accordance with claim 1 wherein the bath lift further comprises a backrest coupled to a top section of the flexible liquid-tight container.

11. A bath lift in accordance with claim 1 wherein the flexible liquid-tight container comprises a support device coupled to a bottom section of the flexible liquid-tight container for preventing the flexible liquid-tight container from tipping over.

12. A bath lift according to claim 1 wherein the valve assembly comprises: a first valve for coupling a liquid source to the valve assembly, wherein the first valve has an attachment device for coupling the first valve to the flexible liquid-tight container; a conduit for coupling a liquid source to the flexible liquid-tight container; a second valve for releasing the liquid stored in the flexible liquid-tight container and for stopping the liquid from flowing out of the valve assembly; a handle connecting the second valve opening and closing the second valve.

13. A bath lift according to claim 12 wherein the liquid source comes from at least one of a plumbing fixture or a faucet.

14. A bath lift according to claim 12 wherein the handle is a raised handle.

15. A bath lift comprising: a flexible liquid-tight container for holding and storing a liquid, wherein the flexible liquid-tight container comprises: a vertical column; a top section connected to a top area of the vertical column; a bottom section connected to bottom area of the vertical column; a plurality of reinforcing strips coupled to the vertical column to reinforce and preserve a shape of the flexible liquid-tight container; and a valve assembly coupled to the flexible liquid-tight container for inflating the flexible liquid-tight container with liquid to a height for a bather to enter and exit from a bathtub and for releasing the liquid into the bathtub to lower the bather into the bathtub wherein the valve assembly comprises: a first valve for coupling a liquid source to the valve assembly, wherein the first valve has an attachment device for coupling the first valve to the flexible liquid-tight container; a conduit for coupling a liquid source to the flexible liquid-tight container; a second valve for releasing the liquid stored in the flexible liquid-tight container and for stopping the liquid from flowing out of the valve assembly; and a handle connecting the second valve opening and closing the second valve.

16. A bath lift in accordance with claim 15 wherein the flexible liquid-tight container is made of a washable flexible polymer film.

17. A bath lift in accordance with claim 15 wherein the plurality of reinforcing strips is made of at least one of plastic foam, fiberglass, or metal.

18. A bath lift in accordance with claim 15 wherein the flexible liquid-tight container has a width approximately a size of a width of the bathtub, the flexible liquid-tight container expanding to press against the bathtub to secure the liquid-tight container from tipping and tilting.

19. A bath lift in accordance with claim 15 wherein the flexible liquid-tight container has a length approximately a size of a length of the bathtub.

20. A bath lift in accordance with claim 15 wherein the flexible liquid-tight container further comprises a headrest coupled to a top surface of the flexible liquid-tight container.

21. A bath lift in accordance with claim 15 wherein the bath lift further comprises a backrest coupled to a top section of the flexible liquid-tight container.

22. A bath lift in accordance with claim 1 wherein the flexible liquid-tight container comprises a support device coupled to a bottom section of the flexible liquid-tight container for preventing the flexible liquid-tight container from tipping over.

Description:

RELATED APPLICATIONS

This application claims the benefit of U.S. Provisional Application No. 60/503,296, filed Sep. 17, 2003, in the name of Richard J. Bigda, and entitled “AFFORDABLE BATH LIFT”. The above IS hereby incorporated by reference.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

1. Field of the Invention

This invention relates generally to a bath lift and more specifically, to an affordable bath lift that will allow for the easy transfer of a person into and out of a bathtub using water supplied from the bathtub faucet or a separate device under pressure.

2. Background of the Invention

Everyday, millions of people, who because of age, infirmities, or accidents, struggle with the simple routine of bathing themselves. Moreover, many persons with small infants or children require that the child or infant be lifted in and out of a standard bath. As a result, bath lifts have provided a way for those millions to enjoy a soothing bath without the difficulty of getting into and out of the bathtub and thereby making it once again a simple routine.

In order to accommodate the many people who have difficulty getting into and out of the bathtub, numerous manufacturers have designed different bath lifts. Most of these bath lifts will raise and lower a person into the bathtub. However, the bath lifts designed by most manufacturers are quite expensive: ranging from $700 to $10,000 or more. Most of these devices are chair like units that are placed in the bathtub and after the bather is seated, the seat is lowered by a hydraulic or gear driven electric motor. For most people, the use of the mechanical equipment is far too costly. Furthermore, these types of devices cannot be operated independently. Thus, the bather must find another person to operate the device in order to bathe. An additional problem with the aforementioned bath lifts is that the bath lifts are not easily storable or transferable, are difficult to clean and maintain, and do not conserve natural resources.

As a result, a need existed to provide an improved bath lift that overcomes the above mentioned problems. The improved bath lift will allow for a bather to enter into and exit from a bathtub in an affordable way. The improved bath lift will be lightweight and easily storable or transferable.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

In accordance with one embodiment of the present invention, it is an object of the present invention to provide an improved bath lift.

It is another object of the present invention to provide an improved bath lift that is affordable.

It is another object of the present invention to provide an improved bath lift that will allow for the easy transfer of the bather into and out of the bathtub.

It is still another object of the present invention to provide an improved bath lift that is easy for the bather to use once inside the bathtub.

It is still another object of the present invention to provide an improved bath lift that fits securely and safely into the bathtub by conforming to the sides of the bathtub.

It is yet another object of the present invention to provide an improved bath lift that will be inflatable through the affordable use of a liquid.

It is still another object of the present invention to provide an improved bath lift that is easily storable and transferable.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE PREFERRED EMBODIMENTS

In accordance with one embodiment of the present invention, a bath lift for a bather to easily enter and exit a bathtub is disclosed. The bath lift has a flexible liquid-tight container which acts like a seat for the bather. A conduit coupled to the flexible liquid-tight container allows for inflating and deflating of the flexible liquid-tight container with a liquid. When opened, a valve assembly connected to the conduit releases the liquid and thereby lowers the seat. When closed, the valve assembly allows the liquid to enter into the conduit to fill the flexible liquid-tight container and thereby raise the seat. Also, the flexible liquid-tight container retains liquid when the valve assembly is in a closed position. This allows for the lowering of the bather into the bathtub when liquid is released, raising the bather when liquid is entered into the conduit, and retaining the liquid when inflated.

The foregoing and other objects, features, and advantages of the invention will be apparent from the following, more particular, description of the preferred embodiments of the invention, as illustrated in the accompanying drawing.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

The novel features believed characteristic of the invention are set forth in the appended claims. The invention itself, as well as a preferred mode of use, and advantages thereof, will best be understood by reference to the following detailed description of illustrated embodiment when read in conjunction with the accompanying drawings, wherein like reference numerals and symbols represent like elements.

FIG. 1 is a front view of one embodiment of the fully inflated bath lift.

FIG. 2 is a front view of one embodiment of the deflated bath lift.

FIG. 3 is a front view of one embodiment of the fully inflated bath lift with an inner view of the reinforced vertical column.

FIG. 4 is a top view of one embodiment of the conduit, valve assembly, and attaching device to the flexible liquid-tight container.

FIG. 5 is a side view of one embodiment of the conduit, valve assembly, and a lever with a shortened vertical handle for opening and closing the valve assembly connected to the flexible liquid-tight container.

FIG. 6 is a top view of one embodiment of an oval-shaped bath lift within a bathtub connected to a liquid source.

FIG. 7 is a top view of another embodiment of a circular-shaped bath lift within a bathtub connected to a liquid source.

FIG. 8 is a top view of another embodiment of a rectangular-shaped bath lift within a bathtub connected to a liquid source.

FIG. 9 is a top view of another embodiment of a bath lift which fills the length of the bathtub to a liquid source.

FIG. 10 is a side view of another embodiment of a bath lift with a backrest and supporting device.

FIG. 11 is a side view of another embodiment of the conduit, valve assembly, and an extended lever for opening and closing the valve assembly connected to the flexible liquid-tight container.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION

Referring to the Figures, an affordable bath lift 1 (hereinafter bath lift 1) will be described. The bath lift 1 uses a liquid, such as water from the faucet of the bathtub, to raise the bath lift 1 up so that a person may sit on the bath lift 1. Once seated, the water may be released from the bath lift 1 thereby lowering the person into the bathtub. The water released from the bath lift 1, will fill the bathtub so that the user may bathe.

The bath lift 1 comprises a flexible liquid-tight container 30 (hereinafter container 30). The container 30 includes a top section 2. The top section 2 is coupled to a bottom section 6 by a vertical section 4. The top section 2 and bottom section 6 are seamed 3 to the vertical section 4 to make it liquid-tight as shown in FIG. 1.

The top 2 and bottom 6 sections of the container 30 may come in a variety of different shapes and sizes. While FIG. 1-3 and 5-7 show a circular/oval container 30, other shapes and sizes may be used without departing from the spirit and scope of the present invention. For example, FIGS. 8 and 9 shows a bath lift 1 having a square/rectangular container 30.

The container 30 is made from a light weight material. This will make the bath lift 1 easy to store and transport. Compositely, the container 30 is made of a flexible polymer film such as a heavy gauge polyvinyl chloride, polyethylene, polypropylene, or a similar heavy gauge plastic film. By using a flexible polymer film, the container 30 effectively eliminates the need for heavy mechanical parts.

Furthermore, by using a flexible polymer film, the container 30 is sized to expand to press against the irregular walls and bottom of the tub 21 as shown in FIGS. 6-8. Thus, the container 30 conforms to the size and shape of the bathtub. By conforming to the shape of the bathtub, the container 30 creates friction between the container 30 and the bathtub. The friction prevents the tipping and tilting of the container 30 and creates a safe and secure bath lift 1 for the bather to enter and exit the bathtub.

The flexible polymer film also makes the container 30 washable and durable. Specifically, the bath lift 1 can be easily washed by deflating the unit and placing it in a washing machine with towels or other fabrics. Drying the container 30 can also be easily accomplished through air-drying.

In another embodiment, the container 30 forgoes the use of the flexible polymer film and is instead constructed with a flexible plastic film that stretches in only one direction. Accordingly, the flexible plastic film may be an isotatic film that deforms only in the vertical plane but not in the horizontal plane. The isoatic film would serve the purpose of reinforcing or maintaining the box like shape of the bath lift while collapsing only in a vertical fashion.

In order to further support the weight of the liquid in the container 30, reinforcing straps 10 (FIG. 3) may be coupled to the container 30. The reinforcing straps 10 are coupled on the vertical section 4. The reinforcing straps 10 will generally be placed on the front side and the back side of the vertical section 4. The reinforcing straps 10 support the vertical section 4 thereby preventing the vertical section 4 from bulging out and forming a sphere. The reinforcement straps 10 are generally not necessary on the side area of the vertical section 4 since the side areas are needed to press against the bathtub to hold the bath lift 1 in place. However, the reinforcing straps 10 may be placed around the entire outer circumference of the vertical section 4 if desired.

Referring to FIG. 3, wherein like numerals and symbols represent like elements, an internal view of the container 30 is shown. As shown, the reinforcing straps 10 are coupled to the interior surface of the container 30. This is done to hide the reinforcing straps 10 to make the bath lift 1 more aesthetically pleasing to the user. However, it should be noted that the reinforcing straps 10 may be placed on the outside of the container 30 if desired. The reinforcing straps 10 that adhere to the container 30 may be sealed to the container 30 and covered or coated with vinyl or like film to improve the appearance and aid in supporting the container 30 and preserving the shape of the bath lift.

The reinforcing straps 10 may be made out of a plurality of different materials. The reinforcing straps 10 may be composed of plastic foam, fiberglass, metal strand like material, or the like. The listing of the above should not be seen as to limit the scope of the present invention.

The container 30 has a conduit/valve assembly 5 coupled to the container as shown in FIGS. 1-11. The conduit/valve assembly 5 is generally coupled to the bottom-front section of the container 30. The conduit/valve assembly 5 is used for inflating and deflating the container 30. The conduit/valve assembly 5 also prevents the liquid of the container 30 from escaping.

As shown in FIG. 4, wherein like numerals and symbols represent like elements, one embodiment of the conduit/valve assembly 5 is shown. FIG. 4 shows the conduit/valve assembly 5 is broken into smaller parts. Specifically, FIG. 4 shows an attaching end 11, a first value 12, a liquid source 18, a second valve 14, a conduit 13 connecting the first valve 12 and the second valve 14, and a lever 15 attached to the second valve 14. Accordingly, the attaching end 11 connects the container 30 to the valve assembly/conduit 5. As a consequence, liquid flows in and out of the attaching end 11. In this embodiment, the attaching end 11 has a threading. The threading is used to couple the attaching end 11 to the container 30. However, many different means may be used to attach the container 30 to the attaching ends 11.

Connected to the attaching end 11 is the first valve 12. The first valve is a “T” shape valve. As shown in FIG. 4 the first valve 12 performs two functions. First, the first valve 12 connects the rest of the conduit/valve assembly 5 to the container 10. Second, water is entered in via the first valve 12 to inflate the container 30. Accordingly, the first valve 12 allows for water to be passed into the container 30 by a water source 18 when the water source 18 is turned on to inflate the container 30. As a result, the bather can easily enter into the bath tub by inflating the bath lift 1 through the first valve 12. Similarly, the bather can be lifted from the bathtub to the appropriate height to exit the bathtub.

The water source 18 may come from a variety of different places. FIG. 6-7 and 9 shows the water source 18 as a faucet 19 of the bathtub. Accordingly, the bath lift 1 only requires a plumbing fixture or a faucet in or near the bath lift 1 so the bather can easily turn on and off the liquid source 18. Other water sources 18 may be used such as a sink faucet or the like. The listing of the above should be seen as to limit the scope of the present invention.

Also, attached to the first valve 12 is a conduit 13 which connects to the second valve 14. The conduit 13 allows for the bather to position the second valve 14 at an appropriate length away from the bather. Thus, the bather is not hampered by having the second valve 14 directly in front of him or her.

The second valve 14 is a two way valve. The second valve 14 serves two useful purposes. First, when the second valve 14 is closed, the valve assembly/conduit 5 retains the water inside the container 30. Moreover, when water is entered in by the first valve 12, the second valve 14 stops the water from escaping and forces the water to flow through the attaching end 11 into the container 30. The second purpose occurs when the second valve 14 is in an open position. When the second valve 14 is opened, the water contained within the container 30 flows through the conduit 13 and is released into the bathtub 20.

The second valve 14 has a lever 15 coupled thereto. The lever 15 is used to control the opening and closing of the second valve 14. The lever 15 further helps to regulate the flow of water that is released from the container 30. As a result of the bather's ability to regulate the flow of liquid from coming out, the bather may slowly and safely enter into the tub at the bather's pace.

The lever 15 may come in different lengths. In FIG. 5, a side view of the invention is shown. The embodiment depicts the connection of a short lever 15 coupled to the valve assembly 14. Accordingly, the short lever 15 maintains a low vertical height. Differentiating from the short lever 15 is the extended lever 15 as depicted in FIG. 11. As a result of the extended lever 15, bathers with infirmities may close the second valve 14 by reaching forward instead of forward and downwards.

As stated above, the container 30 may come in different shapes. FIG. 6 shows an oval-shaped container 30. FIG. 7 depicts a circular-shaped container 30. The embodiment depicted in FIG. 8 shows a rectangular-shaped container 30.

The container 30 may have additional features added thereto. For example, the container 30 shown in FIG. 9 is an extended container 30 that's approximately the size of the length of the bathtub. The extension of the container 30 results in the ability for a bather who needs or has to lie down to be raised and lowered. Accordingly, infants or bathers who require bathing in a lying down position would benefit from the embodiment shown in FIG. 9.

In addition to the extended size, the container 30 in FIG. 9 also includes a headrest 25. The headrest 25 comes in a variety of forms and is sewn, molded, or fastened any other way to the container 30. As a result of the headrest 25, the bather's head is prevented from being submerged. Thus the headrest 25 gives the bather the ability to bathe while lying down.

Referring now to FIG. 10, wherein like numerals and symbols represent like elements, a rigid backrest 26 and a support device 27 are coupled to the container 30. The backrest 26 and support device 27 come in a variety of forms and are sewn, attached, or fastened any other way to the container 30. The backrest 26 provides a comfortable chair-like apparatus whereby the bather's back is supported. The additional supporting device 27 prevents the container 30 from tipping over and the bather from falling back. Accordingly, the benefits of the back rest 26 and the support device 27 are further realized when those persons with infirmities would not be able to sit upright on the bath lift.

OPERATION

As stated above, the container 30 is flexible so that the container may be inflated with water to support a person and deflated to place the person in the bathtub. The bath lift 1 shown in FIG. 1, shows a container 30 in an inflated state. In this state, the bather may enter or exit from the bathtub in a safe and secure manner. In FIG. 2, the container 30 is in a deflated state. Correspondingly, the vertical section 4 has collapsed, but the top section 2 of the container 30 remains intact. In the deflated state, the bather has entered into the water and while sitting comfortably, bathes himself. Moreover, because of the compact nature of the bath lift 1 in the deflated state, the bath lift 1 may be easily stored away or transported.

In operation, the first valve 18 is coupled to a water supply 19. The water supply is generally the water faucet in the bath tub. The user will rotate the handle 15 to close the second valve 14. The user will turn on the water supply 19 at a desired temperature and fill the container 30 with water.

When the container 30 is full of water, the sides of the container 30 will be secured against the walls of the bathtub thereby holding the container 30 in place. The container 30 will now be able to support the weight of the user. The user will then sit on the container 30. Once seated, the user will rotate the handle 15 thereby releasing the water stored in the container 30. The user will control the release of water to slowly deflate the container and gently lower the user into the bathtub. The water released from the container 30 will fill the bathtub so that the user can bathe. The deflated container 30 may be removed from the bathtub or the user may continue to sit on the container while bathing

When the user is finished bathing, the user will rotate the handle 15 to close the second valve 14. The user will then turn on the water supply 19 again. The water supply 19 will fill the container 30 back up with water. As the container 30 is filled with water, the user will begin to gentle rise up out of the tub. When the container 30 is full of water, the sides of the container 30 will be secured against the walls of the bathtub thereby holding the container 30 in place. The user will then be able to safely exit the bathtub.

While the invention has been particularly shown and described with reference to preferred embodiments thereof, it will be understood by those skilled in the art that the foregoing and other changes in form and details may be made therein without departing from the spirit and scope of the invention. For example, the conduit/valve assembly 5 could be made using a single three-way valve assembly instead of the one shown.