Title:
PERSONAL HYGIENE DEVICE FOR USERS WITH LIMITED MOBILITY
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
A personal hygiene device for use by users with limited mobility comprises a shaft and a clamp. The clamp holds a piece of wiping material and the wiping material folds over and is structurally supported by a portion of the shaft. The device, with the wiping material held in place by the clamp, is used to perform bodily care functions such as wiping, bathing, or applying ointments or liquids. The wiping material comprises a piece of cloth-like absorbent material with a flap attached to the back of the material, wherein the flap extends outwardly perpendicular to the back of the material.



Inventors:
Klaes, Daniel E. (Houston, TX, US)
Application Number:
11/777595
Publication Date:
02/07/2008
Filing Date:
07/13/2007
Primary Class:
Other Classes:
15/210.1
International Classes:
A46B5/02; A47K7/00
View Patent Images:



Primary Examiner:
KARLS, SHAY LYNN
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
NORTON ROSE FULBRIGHT US LLP (HOUSTON, TX, US)
Claims:
What is claimed:

1. A personal hygiene device, comprising: a shaft having a proximal portion, an intermediate portion, and a distal portion; and a clamp associated with the distal portion of the shaft that is oriented parallel to the central axis of the distal portion of the shaft.

2. The device of claim 1, wherein the distal portion of the shaft is rotatable with respect to the intermediate portion of the shaft.

3. The device of claim 1, wherein at least a portion of said distal portion of the shaft is adapted to provide rigid support for a wiping material.

4. The device of claim 3, wherein the distal portion of the shaft comprises a rounded top edge of narrowed width and a bottom edge of greater width than the width of the top edge.

5. The device of claim 4, wherein the distal portion of the shaft has a length greater than its width.

6. The device of claim 4, wherein the distal portion of the shaft has a width greater than its length

7. The device of claim 1, wherein one or more of the proximal, intermediate, and distal portion of the shafts are releasably attached to one another.

8. The device of claim 1, wherein the intermediate shaft portion is curved.

9. The device of claim 1, wherein the proximal shaft portion comprises a handle.

10. The device of claim 9, wherein the handle comprises a hollow loop.

11. The device of claim 1, wherein the distal portion of the shaft is at least partially hollow and covers at least a portion of the clamp.

12. The device of claim 1, wherein the clamp comprises two jaw members at least one of which is biased closed and may be opened by a means for opening the clamp.

13. The device of claim 12, wherein the clamp extends less than about one inch from the distal portion of the shaft.

14. The device of claim 12, wherein the clamp extends less than about one centimeter from the distal portion of the shaft.

15. The device of claim 12, wherein one of the jaw members is stationary.

16. The device of claim 12, wherein the two jaw members open to a maximum spacing between about 3 to 5 millimeters.

17. The device of claim 12, wherein the means for opening the clamp comprises a button, a sliding member, or a lever.

18. The device of claim 12 wherein the means for opening the clamp is located on the distal portion of the shaft, the proximal shaft portion, or the intermediate shaft portion.

19. A personal hygiene device, comprising: a shaft having a proximal portion, an intermediate portion, and a distal portion; and a clamp associated with the distal portion of the shaft that is oriented parallel to the central axis of the distal portion of the shaft; wherein at least a portion of said distal portion of the shaft is adapted to provide rigid support for a wiping material when the wiping material is held by the clamp.

20. A disposable material adapted for use on a personal hygiene device, comprising: a piece of absorbent material comprising a first surface and a second surface opposite the first surface; and a flap attached to the first surface, wherein the flap extends outwardly perpendicular to the first surface.

21. The material of claim 20 wherein the flap is attached at or near the center of the first surface.

22. The material of claim 20 wherein the flap comprises a region of increased thickness on its free end.

23. The material of claim 20 wherein the flap is attached at or near an end of the first surface.

24. The material of claim 20 wherein the material is rectangular shaped.

25. The material of claim 20 wherein the material is circular shaped.

26. The material of claim 20 wherein the material is flushable in a toilet.

27. The material of claim 20 wherein the material is between about one to five millimeters thick.

28. The material of claim 20 wherein the first surface has a length between about three and eight inches.

29. The material of claim 20 wherein the flap is rectangular shaped.

30. The material of claim 20 wherein the material is biodegradable.

31. The material of claim 20 wherein the material is selected from the group consisting of cotton, paper, cellulose, synthetic fibers, polyacrylate, polymers, nonwoven fabric, and any combination thereof.

Description:

CROSS REFERENCE TO RELATED APPLICATIONS

This application claims priority to U.S. Application No. 60/834,991, filed Aug. 2, 2006.

TECHNICAL FIELD

The invention relates generally to personal hygiene devices and, more particularly, to a personal hygiene device for use by those with limited mobility.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

People may suffer from limited mobility for many reasons, such as arthritis, old age, handicap, obesity, injury, or surgery. Those with limited mobility often suffer from physical and psychological pain and cannot do all of the activities they are used to doing. Perhaps one of the most emotionally frustrating results of limited mobility is the loss of, or increased difficulty in, the ability to provide basic care to oneself, such as by bathing, wiping the perineal region after going to the bathroom, or applying medication to one's body. A person may be limited in his ability to care for himself because his hands are too weak or deformed to allow him to grasp a wiping material or because his arms, shoulders, trunk, or other body parts do not allow for proper movement needed to perform the required task.

BRIEF SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

The present invention provides an apparatus to aid a user in caring for his body. The apparatus comprises a shaft connected to a clamp that is capable of holding a piece of wiping material or a cloth-like material. The material may be of any shape, including rectangular or circular, and in some embodiments is absorbent. The material may also be disposable, for example, flushable in a toilet. In some embodiments, the material has a length of between about three and eight inches, a width of about two and five inches, and a thickness of between about one to five millimeters. The material has a flap attached to the material for the clamp to grip, and the flap extends perpendicularly outward from the back of the wiping pad. The flap may be attached in the middle of the pad or toward one of the edges and may have a region of increased thickness on its free end.

The shaft of the apparatus has three regions—a proximal region nearest to the user's hand, an intermediate region, and a distal region farthest from the user's hand. The distal region has a central axis defined by the length or width, whichever is greater. The clamp is attached to the distal shaft region and is oriented parallel to the central axis of the distal shaft region. The clamp and shaft are arranged such that when the clamp holds the wiping material, the material covers the portion of the shaft near the clamp to provide a surface for wiping or performing other self-care functions. This arrangement is advantageous because the distal portion of the shaft, having few or no moving parts, is better suited than the clamp to bear the forces associated with wiping.

In some embodiments, the distal shaft portion is rotatable with respect to the rest of the shaft. In some embodiments, the distal shaft portion has a length greater than its width, while in other embodiments, the reverse is true. The distal shaft portion may have any shape that facilitates wiping or other bodily care functions; such as, but not limited to, having a top side with a rounded edge of narrowed width and a bottom edge of greater width. In some embodiments, one or more of the proximal, intermediate, and distal shaft regions may be removed from the remaining portions. In such embodiments alternate shaft portions of varying shape may be substituted for any corresponding removed shaft portion. For example, a generally straight intermediate shaft portion may be removed and replaced with a curved intermediate shaft portion, or a distal shaft portion having a length greater than its width may be removed and replaced with a distal shaft portion have a width greater than its length. In some embodiments, the proximal shaft portion comprises a handle, which may comprise a hollow loop.

In some embodiments, the distal shaft portion is at least partially hollow and covers at least a portion of the clamp. Whether or not a portion of the clamp is covered by the distal shaft portion, the exposed portion of the clamp should not extend very far outwardly from the distal shaft portion. In some embodiments, the tip of the clamp extends less than about an inch away from the distal shaft portion, while in other embodiments it extends less than about a centimeter. The clamp comprises two jaw members, at least one of which is biased closed. The clamp may be opened by a clamp-opening mechanism, which may comprise a button, sliding switch, or lever, among other things. In some embodiments, one of the two clamping jaws is stationary, and the non-stationary clamping jaw is biased closed, such as by a spring biased mechanism. The jaw need only open to a size large enough to grip the wiping material, and in some embodiments, the jaw members open to a maximum spacing of about 3 to 5 millimeters. The clamp-opening mechanism in some embodiments is located on the distal shaft portion; however, in other embodiments, the clamp-opening mechanism is located on the proximal or intermediate shaft portions.

The foregoing has outlined rather broadly the features and technical advantages of the present invention in order that the detailed description of the invention that follows may be better understood. Additional features and advantages of the invention will be described hereinafter which form the subject of the claims of the invention. It should be appreciated by those skilled in the art that the conception and specific embodiment disclosed may be readily utilized as a basis for modifying or designing other structures for carrying out the same purposes of the present invention. It should also be realized by those skilled in the art that such equivalent constructions do not depart from the spirit and scope of the invention as set forth in the appended claims. The novel features which are believed to be characteristic of the invention, both as to its organization and method of operation, together with further objects and advantages will be better understood from the following description when considered in connection with the accompanying figures. It is to be expressly understood, however, that each of the figures is provided for the purpose of illustration and description only and is not intended as a definition of the limits of the present invention.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

For a more complete understanding of the present invention, reference is now made to the following descriptions taken in conjunction with the accompanying drawing, in which:

FIG. 1 is a side view representing one embodiment of the present invention;

FIGS. 2A and B are a perspective views of the distal end portion according to embodiments of the present invention;

FIGS. 3A, B, and C are plan views according to embodiments of the present invention;

FIGS. 4A, B, and C are side views of a portion of the distal end portion according to embodiments of the present invention.

FIGS. 5A, B, and C are plan views of the wiping material according to embodiments of the present invention.

FIGS. 6A and B are side views of the wiping material according to embodiments of the present invention.

FIG. 7 is a side view of a portion of the distal end portion according to embodiments of the present invention.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE INVENTION

As used herein, the use of the word “a” or “an” when used in conjunction with the term “comprising” in the claims and/or the specification may mean “one,” but it is also consistent with the meaning of “one or more,” “at least one,” and “one or more than one.”

Referring to FIG. 1, one embodiment of the present invention comprises a shaft 10 having clamp 14 attached thereto. Although not necessarily separate pieces, shaft 10 comprises proximal shaft portion 11, intermediate shaft portion 12, and distal shaft portion 13. Distal shaft portion 13 comprises a central axis 15. In some embodiments, clamp 14 is arranged parallel to central axis 15 of distal shaft portion 13. Clamp 14 may hold a piece of wiping material or other cloth-like material.

FIGS. 5 and 6 show embodiments of material 50 for use with the present invention. Material 50 may be used for wiping, scrubbing, dabbing, or other bodily care functions, and may be made of any material that is safe for and non-irritable to human skin. In some embodiments, material 50 comprises an absorbent material such as toilet paper and may be disposable, for example, flushed in a conventional toilet. Material 50 may be of any material, such as, but not limited to, cloth, cotton, paper, cellulose, synthetic fibers, polyacrylate, polymers, nonwoven fabric, or any combination of such materials, and may be biodegradable. Material 50 may be of any shape, such as, but not limited to, generally square, rectangular, or circular as shown in FIGS. 5A, 5B, and 5C, respectively. Material 50 comprises a first surface, surface 52, and a second surface opposite from surface 52, surface 53, which are the two surfaces of material 50 having the largest surface areas (the other surfaces being relatively thin edges). Referring also to FIG. 7, surface 53 is the primary surface for contact with skin, while surface 52 is the primary surface for contact with distal shaft portion 13. In some embodiments, material 50 is sized to allow flushing in a conventional toilet, and in one embodiment, surfaces 52 and 53 are generally the same length and width as a sheet of toilet paper. In other embodiments, surfaces 52 and 53 have a length (or diameter, in the case of a circular embodiment) between about three and eight inches and a width between about two and six inches. Material 50 may be of various thicknesses: in some embodiments is the thickness of about 5 to 15 sheets of toilet paper, in other embodiments is about one to five millimeters, and in other embodiments it is about 3 to 10 millimeters thick.

In some embodiments, material 50 comprises flap 51 fixably attached to material 50 on surface 52 to allow clamp 14 a convenient place to grasp material 50. Flap 51 may be of any material, such as, but not limited to, cloth, cotton, paper, cellulose, synthetic fibers, polyacrylate, polymers, nonwoven fabric, or any combination of such materials, and may be attached to material 50 by any means, such as stitching, glue, thermal bonding and the like as long as the bond provides adequate support for stresses involved with wiping and other bodily care functions. Flap 51 may be attached at any position on surface 52, including the center (FIG. 5A), at or near the top or bottom (FIG. 5B), or off-center (FIG. 5C). In some embodiments, flap 51 is oriented to extend outwardly perpendicular to the plane of surface 52. Embodiments in which flap 51 attaches at or near the center of surface 52 allow a user to use both the top and bottom of distal shaft portion 13 for wiping without having to change material 50. Embodiments in which flap 51 attaches off the center of surface 52 allow a user to use all of the area of material 50 using only one side of distal shaft portion 13. Referring to FIG. 6B, in some embodiments, flap 51 comprises an enlarged region 60 at its free end to allow greater frictional force for clamp 14. As used herein, “free end” refers to the edge of flap 51 opposite the edge of flap 51 that is attached to material 50, as shown in FIG. 6B. In some embodiments, flap 51 comprises a rectangular shaped piece of material of which one whole edge is attached to material 50. Although flap 51 may be any width (defined by the edge attached to material 50), in some embodiments it is between about one and two inches wide. Likewise, although flap 51 may have any length, in some embodiments it is between about one centimeter and about one inch long.

Referring to FIG. 7, in some embodiments, clamp 14 is positioned and sized with respect to distal shaft portion 13 such that material 50, when held by clamp 14, covers at least a portion of distal shaft portion 13. In such embodiments, distal shaft portion 13 is adapted to provide rigid support for material 50, which is an advantageous arrangement because distal shaft portion 13, having few or no moving parts, is better suited than clamp 14 to bear the primary forces associated with wiping or other bodily care. Distal shaft portion 13 may be rotatable with respect to intermediate shaft portion 12 to allow the use of top side 18 and bottom side 19 of distal shaft portion 13 as wiping support surfaces. The rotation of distal shaft portion 13 also allows a greater surface area of material 50 to be utilized for wiping when material 50 folds onto distal shaft portion 13 such as in the manner demonstrated in FIG. 7.

Clamp 14 may be of various configurations as long as clamp 14 is generally parallel to central axis 15 of distal shaft portion 13 as shown in FIGS. 3A, 3B, and 3C. In some embodiments, distal shaft portion 13 is at least partially hollow and covers at least a portion of clamp 14. Referring to FIG. 4C, clamp 14 comprises two jaw members 44, at least one of which is biased closed. Clamp 14 may be opened by a force applied to a clamp-opening mechanism 17, such as a lever (FIG. 4A), a button (FIG. 4B), or a sliding switch (FIG. 4C), among other things. Clamp-opening mechanism 17 may be connected to any mechanical devices known in the art, such as springs, connectors, pins, hinges, and pivots sufficient to force open clamp 14. In some embodiments, one of the two clamping jaws 44 is stationary, and the non-stationary clamping jaw is biased closed, such as by a spring biased mechanism. Clamp-opening mechanism 17 in some embodiments is located on distal shaft portion 13; however, in other embodiments, clamp-opening mechanism 17 is located on proximal portion 12 or intermediate shaft portion 11. Referring to FIG. 4B, in some embodiments, clamp 14 opens only a small amount to create jaw opening 43, which is at or slightly greater than the opening size needed to grip flap 51. By way of non-limiting example, clamp 14 may open to a maximum of 3 to 5 millimeters. In some embodiments, to allow a majority of material 50 to be available for wiping using distal shaft portion 13 for support, more than half of material 50 covers distal shaft portion 13, while the remaining portion of material 50 covers clamp 14. In such embodiments, clamp 14 is small relative to material 50. By way of non-limiting examples, referring to FIG. 4B, in some embodiments, the distance 45 from the tip of the clamp to the distal shaft portions is less than about one inch, while in other embodiments distance 45 is less than about one centimeter.

Top side 18 and bottom side 19 may have different shapes, widths, and curvatures, each providing advantageous wiping dynamics. A broad width and flat surface will provide a large surface area for wiping, whereas a narrow width and partially raised surface will aid in more localized applications. For example, referring to FIG. 2A, top side 18 of distal shaft portion 13 may be narrower than bottom side 19 and may be rounded such that the cross-section of distal shaft portion 13 resembles a rounded, triangular shape. In other embodiments, top side 18 may be wider than bottom side 19 or they may be the same width. Referring to FIG. 2B, distal shaft portion 13 may also have a cross-sectional profile of circular or ovular shape. Referring briefly to FIG. 4C, in some embodiments, top side 18 and bottom side 19 have raised portions 41 and 42 to provide areas of concentrated contact support for wiping or other bodily care functions.

While distal shaft portion 13 may be of any shape; however, it is preferable that it has rounded edges so as to provide smooth surfaces for contact with the body. Variations in the distal shaft portion's length and width allow different angles of use, one of which may be more beneficial to a particular user with a particular limitation. By way of non-limiting examples, distal shaft portion 13 may have a length greater than its width, a width greater than its length, or a flared shape, referring to FIGS. 3A, 3B, and 3C, respectively. Regardless of its shape, distal shaft portion 13 comprises central axis 15 along the greater of the length or width dimension, or, if the length equals its width, then along either the length or width.

In some embodiments, distal shaft portion 13, intermediate shaft portion 12, and proximal shaft portion 11 may be disengageable with respect to the other shaft portions. The shaft portions may engage by any means, such as by snapping on, twisting or screwing on, or frictional engagement. In some embodiments, one shaft portion may be disengaged and replaced with an alternately-shaped portion to allow various configurations adapted for different needs. For instance, a plurality of intermediate shaft portions 12 may comprise various curvatures. In one embodiment, intermediate shaft portion 12 is generally straight, while in other embodiments, such as that shown in FIG. 1, intermediate shaft portion 12 is generally “U” shaped. In other embodiments, differently shaped distal end portions 13, such as, but not limited to, those shapes shown in FIGS. 3A, 3B, and 3C, may be substituted depending on the particular need. FIG. 3A depicts a relatively straight and longitudinal distal end portion 13, whereas FIG. 3B depicts a horizontal distal end portion 13 to allow wiping at a different angle. FIG. 3C depicts a flared distal end portion 13 that provides a wide wiping surface, which may be useful wiping/applying on large surfaces such as one's back.

In some embodiments, proximal shaft portion 11 comprises handle 16. Referring to FIG. 1, handle 16 may comprise a hollow loop that can be grasped at one or more locations by a user's hand or hands. Handle 16 also may comprise indentions or ridges 100 to facilitate grasping by the user, or any other shape to facilitate gripping.

Shaft 10 and clamp 14 may be made from any suitable material, such as, but not limited to, rigid plastic material that is light-weight yet strong enough to support wiping. In some embodiments, shaft 10 and clamp 14 are made of material that is easily cleaned.

Although the present invention and its advantages have been described in detail, it should be understood that various changes, substitutions and alterations can be made herein without departing from the spirit and scope of the invention as defined by the appended claims. Moreover, the scope of the present application is not intended to be limited to the particular embodiments of the process, machine, manufacture, composition of matter, means, methods and steps described in the specification. As one of ordinary skill in the art will readily appreciate from the disclosure of the present invention, processes, machines, manufacture, compositions of matter, means, methods, or steps, presently existing or later to be developed that perform substantially the same function or achieve substantially the same result as the corresponding embodiments described herein may be utilized according to the present invention. Accordingly, the appended claims are intended to include within their scope such processes, machines, manufacture, compositions of matter, means, methods, or steps.





 
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