Title:
Bathing aid
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
A bathing aid adapted to support the body of a person attending to a child in a bathtub. The bathing aid supports the body of a person kneeling adjacent the bathtub and reaching into the bathtub. The bathing aid includes a frame mounted to the bathtub, at least one post vertically extending from the frame, and a cushioned support pad mounted to the post. The cushioned support pad is positioned to support the torso of the user to minimize muscle strain and free the hands of user. The height of the post and the orientation of the support pad may be varied to enhance the comfort and support of the user. Aspects of the invention may also be used for non-bathing applications, for example, by healthcare professionals, animal caretakers, assembly-line workers, and technicians.



Inventors:
Hogan, Elizabeth M. (Saratoga Springs, NY, US)
Nolan, Julie C. (Saratoga Springs, NY, US)
Application Number:
11/349490
Publication Date:
08/09/2007
Filing Date:
02/07/2006
Primary Class:
International Classes:
A47K3/12; A47K3/022
View Patent Images:



Primary Examiner:
WALCZAK, DAVID J
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
HESLIN ROTHENBERG FARLEY & MESITI PC (ALBANY, NY, US)
Claims:
1. A support structure adapted to support an person accessing the inside of an enclosure, the enclosure having a vertically-extending sidewall, the support structure comprising: a frame adapted to engage the vertically extending sidewall; at least one post vertically extending from the frame, the post having a first end mounted to the frame and a second end; a cushioned support pad mounted to the second end of the post, the cushioned support pad adapted to support the person while the person accesses the inside of the enclosure.

2. The support structure as recited in claim 1, wherein the vertically extending sidewall comprises a substantially horizontal ledge, and wherein the frame is supported on the horizontal ledge.

3. The support structure as recited in claim 1, wherein the at least one vertically extending post comprises at least one vertically adjustable post.

4. The support structure as recited in claim 1, wherein the cushioned support pad is adapted to support the person by contacting the torso of the person.

5. The support structure as recited in claim 4, wherein the cushioned support pad is adapted to support the person by contacting one of the chest of the person and the midsection of the person.

6. The support structure as recited in claim 1, wherein the vertically extending sidewall of the enclosure comprises and outer surface and an inner surface, and wherein the frame engages the inner surface and the outer surface of the vertically extending sidewall.

7. The support structure as recited in claim 1, wherein the cushioned support pad is pivotally mounted to the second end of the post

8. The support structure as recited in claim 1, wherein the cushioned support pad is adapted to reduce loading on at least one the back of the person and the legs of the person.

9. The support structure as recited in claim 1, wherein the enclosure comprises one of a bathtub, basin, spa, and pool.

10. The support structure as recited in claim 9, herein the enclosure comprises a bathtub and the person comprises a person washing an occupant of the bathtub.

11. A bathing aid adapted to support a person kneeling on the floor adjacent a bathtub and bathing an occupant of the bathtub, the bathtub having a vertically extending sidewall having an upper ledge, the bathing aid comprising: a frame adapted to engage the vertically extending sidewall; at least one post vertically extending from the frame, the post having a first end mounted to the frame and a second end; a cushioned support pad mounted to the second end of the post, the cushioned support pad adapted to support the torso of the person while the person bathes the occupant of the bathtub.

12. The bathing aid as recited in claim 11, wherein the vertically extending sidewall comprises a substantially horizontal ledge, and wherein the frame is supported on the horizontal ledge.

13. The bathing aid as recited in claim 11, wherein the at least one vertically extending post comprises at least one vertically adjustable post adapted to adjust to the height of the person.

14. The bathing aid as recited in claim 11, wherein the cushioned support pad is adapted to support the person by contacting one of the chest of the person and the midsection of the person.

15. The bathing aid as recited in claim 11, wherein the vertically extending sidewall of the enclosure comprises an outer surface and an inner surface, and wherein the frame engages the inner surface and the outer surface of the vertically extending sidewall.

16. The bathing aid as recited in claim 11, wherein the cushioned support pad is pivotally mounted to the second end of the post.

17. The bathing aid as recited in claim 16, where the pivotally mounted cushioned support pad further comprises means to fix the orientation of the cushioned support pad.

18. The bathing aid as recited in claim 11, wherein the frame comprises at least one horizontal member and a plurality of vertical members mounted substantially perpendicular to the at least one horizontal member.

19. The bathing aid as recited in claim 18, wherein the at least one horizontal member and the plurality of vertical members include protecting covering adapted to minimize damage to the enclosure.

20. The bathing aid as recited in claim 11, wherein the enclosure comprises one of a bathtub, basin, spa, and pool.

Description:

TECHNICAL FIELD

The general field of the invention comprises structures that can support a person accessing the inside of an enclosure. More specifically, the field of the invention comprises structures that can support an attendant bathing an occupant of a bathing enclosure, such as a bathtub.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

Parents and other caregivers are often required to reach into an enclosure to attend to a child or patient in need of comfort, handling, washing, or treatment. A parent bathing a child in a bathtub and a nurse attending to a patient in a therapeutic spa are two typical examples of situations where the caregiver must reach into an enclosure while firmly maintaining a position outside the enclosure.

However, reaching into a tub to attend to a child or patient and typically handling the child or patient can result in undue strain upon the muscles of the arms, back, and legs. This concern for the comfort of the caregiver is likely to only become more acute as the population ages and the number of patients needing assistance increases, as well the age of the caregiver increases.

Prior art devices have been provided in an attempt to address this problem, for example, U.S. Pat. No. 4,356,575 issued to Terry [herein “Terry”]; U.S. Pat. No. 5,983,418 issued to Goodman, et al. [herein “Goodman”]; and U.S. Pat. No. RE 37,346 issued to Frawley [herein “Frawley”] all disclose some type of support device for a person attending to a bather in a tub. However, each of these references is limited to providing the support pad directly upon the tub rim. For example, Terry provides a pad supported upon the tub rim; Goodman provides a pad mounted directly upon the rim; and Frawley also provides a pad mounted directly upon the rim.

In addition, though some of these references disclose that the height of the support pad be adjustable, none of the above-cited references disclose or suggest that this height be adjustable to other than the height of the tub rim. That is, none of these references disclose or suggest that the supporting surface be provided where it is most needed, that is, supporting the torso, upper torso, or chest, for example, to free hands and arms of the user and to support the weight of the user above a user's center of gravity. For example, without such support, the stability of the attendant may be jeopardized; for instance, the parent may fall headlong into the bathtub. In addition, the cited prior art does not provide a support pad mounted on an adjustable extension above the tub rim. Furthermore, none of the above references disclose that the angle of the support pad be variable; moreover, the angle of orientation of the prior art support surfaces cannot be adjusted since the prior art support surfaces are typically mounted directly to the ledge of the bathtub.

Thus, there is a need in the art for a support structure that can be used by a person accessing the inside of an enclosure, for example, a bathtub, that provides adjustable support to the user where it is most needed: to the torso or upper torso. Aspects of the present invention provide such a device that addresses the deficiencies of the prior art and provides advantages compared to the prior art.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

Aspects of the present invention include support structures or bathing aids that assist a user in attending to a person or object located inside an enclosure, for example, a parent washing a child in bathtub or a healthcare provider attending to a patient in a therapeutic spa. Aspects of the invention allow the user to access the inside of the enclosure from the outside of the enclosure, for example, while kneeling. Aspects of the present invention can minimize muscle strain, enhance the user's ability to manipulate the contents of the enclosure, and enhance the positional stability of the user.

For example, one aspect of the invention is a support structure adapted to support a person accessing the inside of an enclosure, the enclosure having a vertically-extending sidewall, the support structure comprising or consisting of a frame adapted to engage the vertically extending sidewall; at least one post vertically extending from the frame, the post having a first end mounted to the frame and a second end; a cushioned support pad mounted to the second end of the post, the cushioned support pad adapted to support the person while the person accesses the inside of the enclosure. In one aspect of the invention, the vertically extending post comprises a vertically adjustable post. In another aspect, the cushioned support pad is adapted to support the person by contacting the torso of the person, for example, the midsection, chest, or upper torso. The enclosure may be bathtub, a basin, a spa, or a pool, among other enclosures.

Another aspect of the invention is a bathing aid adapted to support a person kneeling on the floor adjacent a bathtub and bathing an occupant of the bathtub, the bathtub having a vertically extending sidewall having an upper ledge, the bathing aid comprising or consisting of a frame adapted to engage the vertically extending sidewall; at least one post vertically extending from the frame, the post having a first end mounted to the frame and a second end; a cushioned support pad mounted to the second end of the post, the cushioned support pad adapted to support the torso of the person while the person bathes the occupant of the bathtub. In one aspect, the vertically extending sidewall of the enclosure may include an outer surface and an inner surface, and wherein the frame may engage the inner surface and the outer surface of the vertically extending sidewall. In another aspect, the cushioned support pad may be pivotally mounted to the second end of the post and the pivotally mounted cushioned support pad may further comprise means to fix the orientation of the cushioned support pad.

A further aspect of the invention is a method for attending to an object or occupant of an enclosure using the device described above. This method may comprise or consist of providing the above support structure; mounting the support structure to a wall of the enclosure; leaning over the wall of the enclosure and engaging the cushioned support pad wherein to provide at least some load to the support structure; and attending to the object or occupant of the enclosure. In one aspect, the attending may comprise washing the occupant of the enclosure, for example, a child or a patient. In another aspect, attending may comprise washing or servicing an object or component, for example, servicing an automotive component or manipulating objects on an assembly line. Other uses of the present invention will be apparent to those of skill in the art.

These and other aspects, features, and advantages of this invention will become apparent from the following detailed description of the various aspects of the invention taken in conjunction with the accompanying drawings.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

The subject matter, which is regarded as the invention, is particularly pointed out and distinctly claimed in the claims at the conclusion of the specification. The foregoing and other objects, features, and advantages of the invention will be readily understood from the following detailed description of aspects of the invention taken in conjunction with the accompanying drawings in which:

FIG. 1 is a perspective view of a bathing aid according to one aspect of the invention.

FIG. 2 is a front elevation view of the bathing aid shown in FIG. 1.

FIG. 3 is right-hand elevation view of the bathing aid shown in FIG. 1.

FIG. 4 is a rear elevation view of the bathing aid shown in FIG. 1.

FIG. 5 is a detailed view of the cushioned support pad mounting to the post according to another aspect of the invention.

FIG. 6 is a right-hand elevation view of the bathing aid shown in FIG. 1 illustrating a typical use according to one aspect of the invention.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE INVENTION

FIG. 1 is a perspective view of a support structure or bathing aid 10 according to one aspect of the invention as bathing aid 10 would typically be mounted to an enclosure 12, for example, to a bathtub, basin, spa, or pool. As shown, bathing aid 10 includes a frame 14 adapted to engage a vertically extending sidewall 16 of enclosure 12, at least one post 18 vertically extending from frame 14, and a cushioned support pad assembly 20 mounted to post 18. FIG. 2 is a front elevation view of bathing aid 10 shown in FIG. 1, FIG. 3 is right-hand elevation view of bathing aid 10 shown in FIG. 1, and FIG. 4 is a rear elevation view of the bathing aid shown in FIG. 1.

According to one aspect of the invention frame 14 may comprise any structure that is adapted to mount bathing aid 10 onto enclosure 12. As shown in FIGS. 1-4, frame 14 may comprise a structure that can be mounted to the top surface or ledge 22 of sidewall 16. Frame 14 may include a plurality of structural members, for example, one or more horizontal members 26, 27, and 28, and a plurality of vertical members 29, 30, 31, and 32. Horizontal member 26 may comprise one or more plates, for example, a round, square, or rectangular plate, to which members 29-32 are mounted. Horizontal member 26 may also comprise two or more bars or rods, for example, bars 26-28 to which bars or rods 29-32 are mounted. Vertical members 29-32 are positioned to engage the inside surface 33 and outside surface 34 of sidewall 16, for example, to provide some horizontal stability to bathing aid 10 under the expected loading applied by a user to support pad assembly 20. For example, vertical members 29-32 typically comprise at least three vertical members adapted to engage sidewall 16. Frame 14 may include means for varying the width or length between vertical members. In one aspect, the widths between members 29, 30, 31, and 32 may be varied to accommodate varying widths and lengths of sidewall 16. For example, the width between members 29 and 31 and between members 30 and 32 may be varied to accommodate a sidewall 16 of larger or smaller width. In another aspect, the width between members 29 and 30 and between members 31 and 32 may be varied to increase or decrease the width of the engagement with sidewall 16, for instance, to provide a wider frame 14 for more stability. The adjustment in width between members 29, 30, 31, and 32 may be provided by providing one or more of horizontal members 26, 27, and 28 as telescoping members, for example, similar to members 38 and 39 shown in FIG. 5 for post 18 having a retaining means 40.

Frame 14 and its components may be made from any structural material for example, wood, plastic, or metal. Frame 14 may be made from a polyamide (PA), for example, nylon; a polyamide-imide; a polyethylene (PE); a polypropylene (PP); a polyester (PE); a polytetraflouroethylene (PTFE); an acrylonitrile butadiene styrene (ABS); a polycarbonate (PC); or a vinyl, such as, polyvinylchloride (PVC), among other plastics. Frame 14 may also be made from iron, steel, stainless steel (for example, AISI 304 SS), aluminum, or even titanium, or any other structural metal. When frame 14 is made from a hard material, for example, iron or steel, that may damage a softer or damageable material of construction of enclosure 12, for example, a plastic or a porcelain, frame 14 may include one or more protective covers 36, for example, a foam rubber tube or pad about members 26-32 to minimize or prevent damage to enclosure 12.

Frame 14 may be fabricated by conventional means, for example, by means of welding or mechanical fasteners. In one aspect, horizontal members 27 and 28 and vertical members 29-32 may be fabricated by bending structural shapes, for example, rods or structural angles, at an angle, for example, an angle of about 90 degrees.

As described, at least one post 18 may be mounted to frame 14. Post 18 may typically vertically extend from frame 14, for example, vertically extend from horizontal member 26, and post 18 is adapted to support cushioned support pad assembly 20. Though only a single post 18 is shown in FIGS. 1-4, support structure or bathing aid 10 may include a two or more posts 18 mounted to frame 14. Post 18 may be made from any one or more of the structural materials described above with respect to frame 14.

In one aspect of the invention, post 18 may comprise a vertically adjustable post having a length that can vary, as indicated by double arrow 61, for example, to vary the elevation of support pad assembly 20 to accommodate users of varying height. Post 18 may include telescoping members that can be adjusted and fixed relative to each other. For example, as shown in FIG. 5, post 18 may include a first hollow member 38 having a inside dimension, for example, an inside diameter, and mounted to frame 14 and a second member 39 having a outside dimension smaller than the inside dimension of member 38. Post 18 may also include a restraining means 40 that interferes with the telescoping action of members 38 and 39 to position support pad assembly 20 at a desired height or elevation. Restraining means 40 may include any structure or adaptation that prevents relative movement between members 38 and 39 when support pad assembly 20 is positioned in a desired elevation. Restraining means 40 may include one or more rods 41 that engage one or more through holes in members 38 and 39 or a rotatable tightening means that prevents relative movement between members 38 and 39. Other restraining means will be apparent to those of skill in the art.

Support pad assembly 20 is mounted to the second end of post 18 as shown in FIGS. 1-4. Support pad assembly 20 may include a rigid platform 42, for example, a plate or board, mounted to post 18 and some form of cushion material 44 mounted to the upper surface of platform 42. Platform 42 may be mounted directly to post 18, for example, by means of welding, mechanical fasteners, or a pivoting device (see below). As shown in FIG. 4, platform 42 may include one or more support members 43, and post 18 may be mounted to support member 43. Platform 42 and support members 43 may be made from any one or more of the structural materials described above with respect to frame 14. Support members 43 may be mounted to platform 42 and to post 18 by welding or mechanical fasteners 45. Cushioning material 44 may be a foam pad or cushion, for example, a closed cell foam rubber, a latex foam rubber, or a “memory foam” rubber, or their equivalents. In one aspect, cushioning material 44 may comprise a cushioning fabric, for example, cotton batting, covered by a protective cover 47 (see FIG. 3), for example, a vinyl cover, mounted to platform 42. Support pad assembly 20 and cushioning material 44 are adapted to support a person accessing the inside of enclosure 12, for example, comfortably support a person.

FIG. 5 is a detailed view of the cushioned support pad assembly 20 mounting to post 18 according to another aspect of the invention. As shown in FIG. 5, support pad assembly 20 may be pivotally mounted to post 18 by means of pivot connection 46. According to this aspect of the invention, the orientation of pad assembly 20 may be varied to conform to a more comfortable position for the user, for example, as indicated by angle θ in FIG. 5. Pivot connection 36 may include one or more pivot plates 48 having one or more through holes adapted to accepted a pin, rod or shaft 52. Member 39 of post 18 may include at least one through hole adapted to cooperate with through hole in pivot plate 48. Pivot connection 46 may include a threaded fasteners adapted to tighten post 18 to pivot plate 48 when support pad assembly 20 is in a desired orientation. For example, rod 52 may be threaded and include nuts 50 (see FIG. 4) on at least one end which can be tightened to secure post 18 to support pad assembly 20. In one aspect, at least one of the nuts 50 on threaded rod 52 may be a knob or hand wheel 51 that can be easily tightened and untightened by the user.

According to another aspect of the invention, the interface between post 18 and frame 14 may also comprise a pivotal connection 60. According to one aspect of the invention, the angular orientation of post 18, shown generally perpendicular to frame 14, may any angular orientation, as indicated by angle α in FIG. 5. Pivotal connection 60 may be similar to pivotal connection 36 described above, among other pivoting arrangements. In another aspect, post 18 may also rotate relative to frame 14, for example, rotate about a vertical axis directed along the axis of post 18.

FIG. 6 is a right-hand elevation view of the bathing aid or support structure 10 shown in FIGS. 1-5 illustrating a typical use of one aspect of the invention. As shown in FIG. 6, the user 70 of bathing aid or support structure 10 may kneel beside enclosure 12 while accessing the inside of enclosure 12. In one aspect of the invention, a user may stand adjacent to enclosure 12 and lean over to access the inside of enclosure 12. In the aspect of the invention shown in FIG. 6, user 70 may be a parent washing a child in a bathtub or other enclosure, a health care professional attending to a patient in a tub or other enclosure, a animal caretaker attending to an animal in a tub or other enclosure, technician attending to a device or process in a tub or other enclosure, an assembly line worker manipulating a piece part or assembly in an enclosure, or a dishwasher bending over a sink or other enclosure to wash dishes, among other typical users and applications of the invention.

Unlike prior art devices, which typically contact the arms or stomach of the user, as shown in FIG. 6, bathing aid 10 is adapted to contact and support the torso 72 of user 70. According to aspects of the invention, by contacting and supporting the torso 72 of user 70, the user's arms 75 and hands 76 are not encumbered and may more easily access the inside of enclosure 12, and more easily handle or manipulate a bather or object located within enclosure 12, for example, a child 80. In one aspect, bathing aid 10 is adapted to contact the upper torso 74 of user 70. For example, in one aspect, bathing aid 10 is adapted to support a user at a location above the user's center of gravity, CG in FIG. 6. By supporting the body of a user above the user's center of gravity, the user's position is more stable and the user is freer to access and handle an object within enclosure 12 with reduced fear of muscle strain, with reduced fear of falling into enclosure 12, or reduced fear of contacting the contents of enclosure 12. In one aspect of the invention, where enclosure 12 may contain dangerous substances or machines, support structure 10 may provide a significant degree of safety that may prevent users from falling into or undesirably contacting the contents of enclosure 12.

Aspects of the present invention provide improved methods and devices for attending to people or objects in an enclosure while minimizing discomfort and muscle strain. The methods and apparatus of the present invention may free the hands and arms of the user to more easily access and manipulate, for example, a child or a patient. The design of the present invention also permits for easy handling and storage of the apparatus, for example, by simply removing the apparatus from a wall of an enclosure and standing the apparatus on the three or more vertical members of the frame. In one aspect, the vertical and horizontal members may be retractable (for example, by telescoping engagement) to reduce the footprint or envelope of the apparatus for easier handling and storage.

While several aspects of the present invention have been described and depicted herein, alternative aspects may be provided by those skilled in the art to accomplish the same objectives. Accordingly, it is intended by the appended claims to cover all such alternative aspects as fall within the true spirit and scope of the invention.