Title:
Apparatus for assisting the movement of invalid and handicapped persons into and out of a bathtub
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
An inflatable support cushion conformed to fit within the tub cavity of a bathtub forms a generally inclined upper membrane upon inflation aligned to drain the water shed by the user towards the tub drain. The upper membrane is provided with higher elastic coefficient bands towards its periphery to further form drainage channels on inflation. An air pump may be connected either to inflate the cushion to raise the handicapped bather to the tub edge height or may be connected to deflate the cushion for bathing.



Inventors:
Kaufman, Kenneth (Palm Desert, CA, US)
Application Number:
11/400607
Publication Date:
10/11/2007
Filing Date:
04/07/2006
Primary Class:
International Classes:
A47K3/02
View Patent Images:
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Primary Examiner:
HUYNH, KHOA D
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
I. Michael Bak-Boychuk (Long Beach, CA, US)
Claims:
It is claimed:

1. Apparatus for raising and lowering a disabled person from and into a bathtub basin comprising: an inflatable cushion assembly of a generally rectangular form defined by an upper and a lower elastomeric membrane each of a planform conformed for receipt within the interior of said bathtub basin and an elastomeric edge membrane extending between the peripheral edges of said upper and lower membranes to enclose an air impervious cavity therebetween, said edge membrane having a portion thereof extending between the peripheral edges of said upper and lower membranes at one ends thereof of dimension greater than the dimension between the other opposing edges of said upper and lower membranes whereby a sloping relationship between said upper and lower membranes is effected upon the inflation of said cavity; an inflation opening formed in said cushion conformed for selective communication between the exterior and said cavity; and pumping means conformed for connection to said inflation opening for pumping air at pressure into said cavity.

2. Apparatus according to claim 1, wherein: said upper membrane includes bands of increased thickness extending to the peripheral edges thereof;

3. Apparatus according to claim 2, further comprising: a first and second handle mounted for deployable extension at the lateral edges of said cushion

4. Apparatus for raising and lowering a disabled person from and into a bathtub basin comprising: an inflatable cushion assembly of a generally rectangular form having a one and an other opposed end portions between opposing lateral sides defined by an upper and a lower elastomeric membrane each of a planform conformed for receipt within the interior of said bathtub basin and each including a cut-out in the end defining said other opposed end for obtaining access to the drain opening in said bathtub, and an elastomeric edge membrane extending between said cut-outs and between the peripheral edges of said upper and lower membranes to enclose an air impervious cavity therebetween, said edge membrane having a portion thereof extending between the peripheral edges of said upper and lower membranes defining said one ends thereof of dimension greater than the dimension between said cut-outs at the opposing edges of said upper and lower membranes defining said other end, whereby a sloping alignment of said upper membrane towards said drain opening is effected upon the inflation of said cavity; an inflation opening formed in said cushion conformed for selective communication between the exterior and said cavity; and pumping means conformed for connection to said inflation opening for pumping air at pressure into said cavity.

5. Apparatus according to claim 4, wherein: said upper membrane includes bands of increased thickness extending to the peripheral edges thereof.

6. Apparatus according to claim 5, further comprising: a first and second handle mounted for deployable extension at the lateral edges of said cushion

7. Apparatus according to claim 6, further comprising: a selectively releasable vent opening formed in said cushion.

8. Apparatus according to claim 7, wherein: said pumping means includes an electrically powered air pump having a high pressure outlet and a low pressure inlet.

9. Apparatus according to claim 8, further comprising: said pumping means further includes selective valving means for selectively connecting said low pressure inlet to said vent opening or said high pressure outlet to said inflation opening.

10. Apparatus according to claim 6, wherein: said first and second handles are deployable in an offset alignment.

Description:

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

1. Field of the Invention

The present invention relates to devices for assisting invalids or those that are handicapped in the course of movement into or out of a bathtub, and more particularly to an inflatable support platform generally conformed to fill the tub cavity when inflated for effecting substantial displacement elevation changes with small volumetric changes of the bath water.

2. Description of the Prior Art

The current concerns over the safety and ambulatory convenience for the infirm and the handicapped are virtually universal, finding wide expression in various statutory enactments and also in street and building architectures and in the several mechanisms of public transportation. Simply, civilized man has universally sought to include those with handicaps in his interactions and has therefore produced many assisting mechanisms and devices for this purpose. In each instance the main objective of such assisting devices and mechanisms has been to provide independence to the handicapped user, with the desires for privacy directing particular focus on bathroom. The wide range of infirmities, nonetheless, is such that some human assistance may be necessary even in this private setting and for that reason various bathroom mechanisms have had particular attention in the prior art.

One activity that has been particularly difficult for those that are handicapped is bathing where the wet and slippery surfaces of the tub often result in injuries during tub ingress and egress. As result various mechanisms have been devised in the past which in one way or another seek to reduce this risk. For example the teachings of U.S. Pat. Nos. 5,855,028 to Colbert, and 6,715,164 to Steadman et al., illustrate inflatable stools which, when deflated, lower the user into the tub. Alternatively, articulated mechanisms have been proposed wherein rigid support structures or panels are moved to raise and lower the user out of and into the tub, as exemplified by the teachings of U.S. Pat. Nos. 4,495,666 to Herman, Jr., 4,768,239 to Pauley, 5,103,509 to Richards, 4,932,087 and 4,419,776 both to Schmidt, 5,579,544 to Attler, 6,415,459 to Sevier and 6,817,045 to Fainberg. Each of the foregoing, while suitable for the purposes intended, either provide a narrow support base for the user that is easily tipped over or a complex mechanical structure that in itself may be a source of injury. For example, the inflatable seat cushions described in the '028 and '164 patents raise and lower the user from the tub bottom by increasing inflation pressure and therefore are characterized by a soft architecture at least through a portion of the raising stroke. During this lower pressure, and therefore unstable, movement portion the user needs some limb dexterity to maintain balance and the device, therefore, is limited to those possessing such movement capacity. The hard surfaced mechanically articulated seat structures like those exemplified in the '666, '239, '509 and '087 patents, while substantially more stable in the course of their strokes, expose the limbs of the user to the necessary mechanism that provides the motion and therefore also entail some dexterity on the part of the user. Those references that accommodate a supine user, as exemplified in the '459 patent, illustrate complex and therefore expensive mechanical structures that are difficult to install to maintain.

It has been argued that an increasing complexity in the lifting structure is an inherent response to a decreasing range of movement ability in the user and those less able can therefore be only accommodated by a very complex device. As result those most afflicted were also burdened by the most costly mechanisms, compounding the problem. Moreover, this generally accepted notion of increasing complexity fails to recognize the normal progression of most disabilities with the result that those needing most mechanical assistance are provided for the least.

A simple and elegant mechanism that is useful through the whole range of disabilities is therefore extensively desired and it is one such device that is disclosed herein.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

Accordingly, it is the general purpose and object of the present invention to provide an inflatable support structure conformed to lift a supine user into and out of a tub by the inflation thereof.

Other objects of the invention are to provide an inflatable support structure generally conformed to the interior dimensions of a bathtub useful for lowering an invalid or immobile person for bathing.

Yet additional objects of the invention are to provide an inflatable supporting cushion useful in the bathing of an invalid or immobile person conformed to define drainage paths in the surface thereof in the course of inflation.

Yet further objects of the invention are to provide an inflatable support cushion that is useful for bathing when deflated and to lift an immobile person from the bath when inflated.

Briefly, these and other objects are accomplished within the resent invention by providing a generally rectangular inflatable cushion defined by opposed air impervious upper and lower flexible membranes joined at their peripheries to the edges of a flexible peripheral strip to form a hollow chamber therebetween. In planform each of the membranes conforms generally to the interior planform dimensions of a bathtub recess excepting a cut away portion thereof overlying the bathtub drain. In this manner a generally conforming cushion is formed upon the inflation thereof in the bathtub with the exterior cushion height substantially matching the depth of the tub as determined by the transverse dimensions of the peripheral strip. These same transverse dimensions of the strip, however, are tapered to a reduced height along the juncture with the upper membrane edges at the cut away portion, or cut-out, to thereby impose a slope to the upper membrane towards the tub drain for draining any fluid that may be collected thereon into the cut-out when fully inflated. An electrically powered air pump can then be utilized to inflate the cushion to thereby lift and support a person resting thereon as the bath water is drained and a controlled deflation opening provided in the cushion conveniently lowers the person for bathing.

The surface geometry of the inflated cushion may be even further controlled to form well defined drainage channels by including rib-like sectional enlargements in the upper membrane aligned towards the cushion periphery or in radial alignment towards the cut-out edge. These increased section ribs may be either formed in the course of molding the membrane, or may be adhered as thickness doubling membrane strips on the interior membrane surface, thereby forming thicker and therefore less compliant surface portions that because of their lower elastic extension distort the inflated shape to form drainage troughs. In this manner water drainage is assured as the cushion is fully inflated to lift the incapacitated bather to the tub edge.

Once thus lifted and partly dried with the foregoing drainage accommodations the bather is further assisted out of the tub by a pair of handle straps respectively fixed to each lateral cushion edge. It will be appreciated that the tub exit movement entails some body rotation which is promoted by a staggered engagement of each strap end so that the handle strap closest to the wall extend forwardly, or towards the tub drain, while the handle at the free tub edge extends towards the rear.

Those skilled in the art will appreciate that the foregoing cushion structure may be conveniently fabricated from one of the several polymeric materials currently available. Moreover, various known electrical isolation techniques, such as pneumatic loop switching, may be utilized to fully protect the user. In this manner an inexpensive, reliable and extensively convenient mechanism is provided which is particularly useful for those that while they are infirm still have some concern over their dignitary and privacy aspects.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

FIG. 1 is a perspective illustration, separated by parts, of the inventive invalid supporting cushion assembly conformed for receipt within a bathtub;

FIG. 2 is a further perspective illustration of the inventive cushion assembly shown in FIG. 1 positioned in its inflated state within the bathtub;

FIG. 3 is yet another perspective illustration of the inventive cushion assembly in its deflated form collapsed by the weight of the invalid person thereon for bathing;

FIG. 4 is a detail view, in partial section, illustrating one form of reinforcement of the upper membrane of the inventive cushion assembly for forming a drainage trough when inflated;

FIG. 5 is a further detail illustration, in partial section, illustrating another form of membrane reinforcement for reducing the local compliance thereof to form drainage troughs in the membrane in response the tensioning thereof by inflation; and

FIG. 6 is a diagrammatic detail illustrating a valving arrangement useful to conform the inflation device in the inventive cushion assembly into a suction mechanism.

DESCRIPTION OF THE PREFERRED EMBODIMENT

As shown in FIGS. 1 through 6, the inventive inflatable cushion assembly, generally designated by the numeral 10, comprises a generally rectangular cushion structure 20 defined by an upper membrane 21 and a lower membrane 22 both of a similar planform generally conformed to fit within the interior basin BI of a bathtub BT. Each of the membranes 21 and 22, furthermore, include matching edge cut-outs 21-1 and 22-1 at one longitudinal end thereof exposing the tub drain opening DO and providing clearance for the fill spout FS and any overflow openings that may be provided. In this form both the upper and lower membranes 21 and 22 are joined at their peripheries to the lateral edges of a flexible peripheral strip 23 to define the air impervious flexible enclosure that upon inflation forms the cushion structure 20 conformed for receipt within the tub basin BI. An air hose 31 connected to an electrically powered air pump 32 is then useful for inflating the cushion through a one-way inlet 24 while a releasable vent opening 26 can be opened to deflate the assembly.

The width dimension of the peripheral strip 23 generally conforms to the depth of tub basin BI so that a person lying on the upper membrane 21 is lifted to the tub edge upon inflation. Within these general constraints strip 23 is further tapered in width from a shortest dimension spanning between the cut-outs 21-1 and 22-1 to a longest dimension at the opposing cushion end, thereby imposing a generally sloped draining alignment of the upper membrane 21 towards the cut-out when the cushion is resting on the tub bottom. In this manner both ingress and egress into and from the tub BT by deflating cushion 20 to lower the person thereon for bathing and thereafter re-inflating the cushion to bring the occupant back to the tub edge height is rendered convenient while concurrently draining the bath water into the cut-out, all obtained in a simple and inexpensive elastomeric cushion structure that is particularly conformed to assist even those most disabled in their daily ablution.

It will be appreciated that while there are various material structures currently available in the marketplace to form the surfaces of the inflatable cushion, the thin membrane form and the polymeric nature of each renders it inherently resilient. This compliance can be utilized to further advantage in accordance with the illustration in FIG. 4 to reduce the local elasticity of the membrane along defined paths towards the periphery to form drainage channels in the top membrane 21 when inflated, by adhering to the interior surface thereof reinforcing membrane strips 121-1 through 121-n each extending towards the peripheral edge of the cushion. The resulting reduction in elastic extension along each of the reinforcing strips 121-1-121-n form drainage channels 121 that carry away any bath water that is shed by the user, thereby assisting in the user's drying efforts.

Alternatively, as illustrated in FIG. 5, both the upper and lower membranes 21 and 22 may include a reinforcing filament weave 21f and 22f with additional filament bundles 221 imbedded in membrane 21 within bead-like sheaths 321 aligned towards the membrane edge. In this form the elastic extension of each bead 321 is limited, once again resulting in drainage depressions when the cushion is inflated.

In both the foregoing forms the peripheral edges of the upper and lower membranes 21 and 22 may be attached to the longitudinal edge portions of strip 23 either in a stacked adhesive bond strip or by local melting resulting in upper and lower peripheral edge margin bands 27 and 28, each of a substantial strength by virtue of the stacked bonding process. The lateral portion of the upper margin band 27 that extend along both the lateral edges of cushion 20 may then be used for a hand-hold to assist the user in his or her movement on the cushion by providing three spaced pivot hoops on each cushion side respectively designated by their right and left deployments as hoops 27r-1, 27r-2 and 27r-3 and 27l-1, 27l-2 and 27l-3. A pair of flexible strap 29l and 29r are respectively deployed from the corresponding one of central pivot hoops 27l-2 and 27r-2 and looped either forwardly or rearwardly to engage the adjacent hoops 27l-3 and 27r-3 or 27l-1 and 27r-1, thereby allowing a hand-hold offset that further assists in rotating the user for egress from the tub. Those skilled in the art will appreciate that depending on the bathtub drain position a left handed or right handed is thereby accommodated depending on the free edge alignment of the tub relative the adjacent wall. Of course, any conventional buckling structure illustrated as a buckle 29b can be used for the free end engagements of straps 29l and 29r to the selected hoops.

By particular reference to FIG. 6, those in the art will further appreciate that the electrical portions of foregoing inflatable cushion assembly 10 may be isolated, and thus rendered safe to the user by way of a well known pneumatic loop 35 interposed between the electrical switch 33 in the circuit between an electrical outlet E and the electric motor 36 powering the pump wherein remotely applied manual force to a first end bellows 35-1 raises the pressure in loop 35 to expand a second end bellows 35-2 articulating switch 33 to complete the electrical connection. Similar manual control provisions may also be effected to inflate the cushion 20 and thereafter assist in the deflation thereof for bathing by way of a sliding valve block 120 interposed between pump 38 driven by motor 36 and pressurizing hose 31. More precisely, valve block 120 includes a sliding gate panel 121 provided with a pair of inner selector openings 122 and 123 which in one position connect the high pressure outlet of pump 38 to the pressurizing hose 31 and in the other extreme position a pathway is opened between the low pressure inlet of the pump and a deflation hose 126 that connects to the cushion vent opening 26. A set of outer openings 124 and 125 in the gate panel 121 then provides the necessary venting paths for either the inflation or deflation mode. Of course, this valving selector can also be remotely positioned for convenient manipulation by the user along with the deployment ef the end bellows 35-1. In this manner a conveniently controlled inflatable cushion is provided that is both safe and useful for those that are handicapped in their daily cleansing routines.

Obviously many modifications and variations of the instant invention can be effected without departing from the spirit of the teachings herein. It is therefore intended that the scope of the invention be determined solely by the claims appended hereto.