Title:
Bathtub lift device
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
A bathtub lift device for assisting an individual, especially an elderly, handicapped or convalescing individual, in getting into and out of a bathtub includes a rectangular-shaped inflatable and deflatable cushion comprised of interconnected sections that deploy in accordion-like manner, with the cushion disposed within the bathtub and having an underside that includes suction cups to secure the device to the bathtub floor and an upper side that includes a non-slip surface for safety whereupon inflation of the cushion by an electrical air pump connected to the cushion by an air line, and which also includes an air flow control and release valve, causes the sections to expand in accordion-like manner thereby elevating the cushion to a height adjacent to the bathtub sidewalls and deflation of the cushion causes the sections to collapse in an accordion-like manner thereby lowering the cushion, and the individual seated thereon, within the bathtub.



Inventors:
Call, Ralph W. (Port Charlotte, FL, US)
Application Number:
11/636673
Publication Date:
06/12/2008
Filing Date:
12/11/2006
Primary Class:
International Classes:
A47K3/02
View Patent Images:
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Primary Examiner:
HUSON, GREGORY L
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
Ethics Archery, LLC (Vale, NC, US)
Claims:
I claim:

1. A bathtub lift device for placement in a bathtub having a floor and opposed sidewalls for lowering an individual into the bathtub and raising the individual so that the individual can get out of the bathtub, comprising: a rectangular-shaped cushion for placement within the bathtub and upon which the individual is seated and capable of selective inflation and deflation for raising and lowering the individual within the bathtub; the rectangular-shaped cushion including: an under side disposed adjacent the floor of the bathtub and an opposite upper side with the upper side including a non-slip surface; a pair of opposed rails mounted at the upper side and each rail having a handle portion; an interior cavity into which air is delivered for inflating the cushion and from which air is withdrawn for deflating the cushion; a plurality of suction cups mounted to the under side of the cushion and for securement to the floor of the bathtub so that the cushion is maintained in position within the bathtub; an air electrical air pump for selectively delivering air into the interior cavity and for withdrawing air from the interior cavity; a flexible airline for connection to the air pump and the cushion and through which air is delivered and withdrawn during the inflation and deflation of the cushion; an airflow control and release valve mounted to the air line for regulating the flow of air to and from the interior cavity of the cushion; and whereupon withdrawal of air from the interior cavity of the cushion by the electrical air pump causes the deflation of the cushion and the concomitant lowering of the individual within the bathtub for bathing and the delivering of air into the interior cavity of the cushion by the electrical air pump causes the inflation of the cushion and the concomitant raising of the individual in the bathtub so that the individual can get out of the bathtub.

2. The bathtub lift device of claim 1 wherein the handle portion of each rail includes an aperture so that the individual can grasp and hold onto the rail while seated upon the cushion.

3. The bathtub lift device of claim 2 wherein the cushion includes a plurality of adjoined and stacked sections that expand and contract in an accordion manner concomitant with the inflation and deflation of the cushion so that the raising and lowering of the cushion occurs with stability and uniformity.

4. The bathtub lift device of claim 3 wherein the airflow control and release valve includes a rotatable dial that can be manually set to a fill position and an empty position with the dial being set to the fill position for inflating the cushion and the dial being set to the empty position for deflating the cushion.

5. A bathtub lift device for placement on a floor of a bathtub and for lowering an individual seated thereon into the bathtub and for raising the individual in the bathtub thereby assisting the individual in getting out of the bathtub, comprising: a rectangular-shaped cushion for placement within the bathtub and upon which the individual is seated and which is capable of selective inflation for raising the individual seated thereon and selective deflation for lowering the individual seated thereon; the rectangular-shaped cushion including: an upper side disposed adjacent the floor of the bathtub and an opposite upper side with the upper side including a non-slip surface; a pair of opposed rails mounted at the upper side of the cushion and each rail having a handle portion; an interior cavity into which air is delivered for inflating the cushion and from which air is withdrawn for deflating the cushion; an air pump that selectively delivers air into the interior cavity for inflating the cushion and selectively withdraws air from the interior cavity for deflating the cushion; a flexible airline for interconnection to the air pump and the cushion and through which air is delivered and withdrawn during the inflation and deflation of the cushion; an airflow control and release valve mounted to the airline for regulating the flow of air to and from the interior cavity of the cushion; and whereupon withdrawal of air from the interior cavity of the cushion by the air pump causes the deflation of the cushion and the concomitant lowering of the individual within the bathtub for bathing and the delivery of air into the interior cavity of the cushion by the air pump causes the inflation of the cushion and the concomitant raising of the individual in the bathtub so that the individual can get out of the bathtub.

6. The bathtub lift device of claim 5 wherein the handle portion of each rail includes an aperture so that the individual can grasp and hold onto the rail while seated upon the cushion.

7. The bathtub lift device of claim 6 wherein the cushion includes a plurality of adjoined and stacked sections that expand and contract in an accordion manner concomitant with the inflation and deflation of the cushion for providing stability and uniformity in the raising and lowering of the cushion.

8. The bathtub lift device of claim 7 wherein the airflow control and release valve includes a rotatable dial that can be manually set to a fill position and an empty position with the dial being set to the fill position in order to permit the inflation the cushion and the dial being set to the empty position in order to permit the deflation of the cushion.

9. The bathtub lift device of claim 8 further comprising a plurality of suction cups mounted to the under side of the cushion and for securement to the floor of the bathtub for maintaining the cushion in position within the bathtub.

Description:

FIELD OF THE INVENTION

The present invention pertains to bathroom assist devices, and more particularly pertains to a lift device for raising and lowering an individual for assisting the individual in getting into and out of a bathtub.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

One of the most difficult activities for an elderly individual, a handicapped individual, or an individual convalescing and recovering from an illness or injury, is to safely get into and out of a bathtub. Because such individuals either lack strength and mobility, or have injuries that must be protected, or are in a weakened condition due to their illness, maneuvering in and out of a bathtub is fraught with danger and risk. Moreover, it is often the case that elderly and handicapped individuals, determined to maintain their independence, live alone and thus any accident that occurs in the bathroom may be potentially life threatening. In addition to the generally infirm physical condition of the individuals are the dangers posed by the objects and surfaces in the bathroom. The sink, the sink top, the toilet, and the bathtub present hard and slippery surfaces that can easily cause broken bones and blunt force trauma in handicapped, elderly and infirm individuals should they lose their balance and footing and fall against such bathroom objects. This danger is increased in the case of the bathtub where an individual may slip and fall while getting into or out of the bathtub striking a surface of the bathtub with their head rendering themselves unconscious and in danger of drowning if the water in the bathtub has not been drained or the water from the shower continues flowing.

This danger of slipping, falling, losing one's balance and seriously injuring oneself while getting into or out of the bathtub is not necessarily minimized when the elderly, infirm, or handicapped individual is assisted by another person. It takes some skill and practice to carefully maneuver and position a handicapped or elderly individual into a bathtub and then lift such an individual out and over the bathtub onto the bathroom floor. It is left to the assisting individual to provide most of the lifting, balancing and restraining actions as handicapped and elderly individuals do not usually have, nor can they exert, full and complete body and muscle control. Thus, in order to further maneuver and position elderly, handicapped, or infirm individuals in and out of the bathtub, and also to help family members, relatives, or visiting nurses, bathrooms are now often equipped with holding bars mounted to the walls surrounding the bathtub. Also available are sturdy, lightweight seats that straddle the bathtub so that separate seat portions are partially disposed above the bathtub bottom and above the adjacent bathroom floor so that the elderly, handicapped or infirm individual can slide on the seat portions for maneuvering into and out of the bathtub. Further devices have been conceived that actually position the individual within the bathtub and lift the individual off the bathtub bottom thereby easing and facilitating the process of getting the individual in and out of the bathtub.

Thus, the prior art discloses a number of lift devices for assisting and situating an individual in a bathtub. For example, the Hermann, Jr. patents (U.S. Pat. Nos. 4,254,517 and 4,495,666) disclose bathtub cushion lift assemblies that include an inflatable shell that has a filler tube connectable to the bathtub faucet so that water can be controllably discharged from the bathtub faucet into the inflatable shell through the operation of a pressure relief valve. The interior cavity of the inflatable shell can be provided with baffles for dampening water movement within the shell.

The Pauley patent (U.S. Pat. No. 4,768,239) discloses a bathtub lift device that includes a planar base that is set on the floor of the bathtub, a collapsible chair structure that is placed upon the planar base, an inflatable bag enclosed within the chair for raising and lowering the chair and slide control valves for regulating the filling and emptying of water into the bag for raising or lowering the chair structure.

The Attler patent (U.S. Pat. No. 5,579,544) discloses a liftable seat for bathtubs that includes a square-shaped tubular frame for disposition on the floor of the bathtub, a seat slidably mounted on the uprights of the tubular frame, and an inflatable cushion disposed beneath the seat that is inflated for slidably raising the seat and deflated for slidably lowering the seat on the tubular frame.

The Jeans patent (U.S. Pat. No. 5,896,598) discloses a seating device that includes an inflatable seat for disposition on the floor of a bathtub and which is inflated by a motorized fan unit that is connected to the inflatable seat by a supply pipe.

The Steadman et al. patent (U.S. Pat. No. 6,715,164 B2) discloses a bathtub lift that includes an inflatable seat having a seat section and a support section that are interconnected and inflate and deflate in sequence for raising and lowering the inflatable seat.

Nonetheless, despite the ingenuity of the above devices, there remains a need for a bathtub lift device that inflates and deflates in a controlled and stable manner and is easy to operate, move and clean.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

The present invention comprehends a lightweight, portable, durable, easy to operate bathtub lift device that is placed on the bottom surface or floor of a bathtub and is used to lower an individual into the bathtub and raise the individual up from the floor of the bathtub so that the individual can get out of the bathtub thereby allowing the individual to get into and out of the bathtub by his or her own powers and with greater ease and safety. The bathtub lift device is especially adapted for use by handicapped, elderly, infirm, sick, or convalescing individuals that lack the physical power and strength to get into and out of the bathtub on their own and need the assistance of a lifting and stabilizing device. In addition, the bathtub lift device of the present invention provides a measure of independence to elderly or handicapped individuals by assisting them in getting into and out of the bathtub so that they can take a bath on their own and not be dependent on assistance from someone else.

Thus, the bathtub lift device of the present invention includes a generally rectangular-shaped inflatable cushion for disposition within the bathtub and on the bottom or floor of the bathtub. The inflatable cushion includes an interior cavity and is further comprised of interconnected sections stacked one upon the other. The sections expand and contract in an accordion-like manner concomitant with the discharge of air into the interior cavity of the cushion thereby raising the cushion or lowering the cushion. The underside of the cushion includes suction cups that adhere to the bathtub bottom for securing the cushion in place within the bathtub, and an upper side that includes a non-slip surface so that the individual seated thereon doesn't slip or slide off the cushion.

The opposed short ends of the cushion each include a guard rail and each guard rail includes a centrally located handle portion with an aperture for gripping by the individual so that as the individual is being raised or lowered upon the cushion, the individual can maintain his or her stability by gripping and holding onto the respective handle portions. An electrical air pump, such as the kind used to inflate air mattresses used in outdoor camping, is used to supply air to the interior cavity for inflating and elevating the cushion, and also for deflating and lowering the cushion. Mounted on the square-shaped, waterproof housing or case of the air pump is an on button and an off button. An airline or hose extends from the air pump for airflow registration with the interior cavity of the cushion for allowing the passage of air into the interior cavity for inflating the cushion. Mounted to the air line midway between the air pump and the connection to the cushion is a manually operable two-way air flow control and release valve that can be manually adjusted and set to allow air to flow through the air line and into the cavity of the cushion or to allow the egress and evacuation of air therefrom. In addition, a rechargeable battery can be used to power the electrical air pump.

It is an objective of the present invention to provide a bathtub lift device for assisting elderly and handicapped individuals in getting into and out of a bathtub.

It is another objective of the present invention to provide a bathtub lift device that is portable, easy to use and operate, and easy to clean.

It is yet another objective of the present invention to provide a bathtub lift device that allows an individual a certain amount of dignity and independence by allowing the individual to bathe without assistance and by their own efforts.

It is still yet another objective of the present invention to provide a bathtub lift device that prevents slip-and-fall accidents in the bathtub.

Another objective of the present invention is to provide a bathtub lift device that utilizes an inflatable cushion that facilitates the lowering of the individual into the bathtub and the raising of the individual for getting out of the bathtub.

Yet another objective of the present invention is to provide a bathtub lift device that is lightweight and manufactured from durable components.

These and other objects, features and advantages will become apparent to those skilled in the art upon a perusal of the following detailed description read in conjunction with the accompanying drawing figures and appended claims.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

FIG. 1 is a perspective view of the bathtub lift device of the present invention illustrating the device in the inflated disposition for raising the individual in the bathtub;

FIG. 2 is a perspective view of the bathtub lift device of the present invention illustrating the underside of the device and the device in the deflated and lowered disposition;

FIG. 3 is an end elevational view of the bathtub lift device of the present invention illustrating the device situated in a bathtub and the device in the deflated and lowered disposition;

FIG. 4 is an end elevational view of the bathtub lift device of the present invention illustrating the device situated in the bathtub and the device in the inflated and elevated disposition;

FIG. 5 is a top plan view of the bathtub lift device of the present invention illustrating the control buttons on an electric air pump that are actuated for directing air into the cushion and for withdrawing air from the cushion;

FIG. 6 is a side elevational view of the bathtub lift device of the present invention illustrating an air regulation valve for regulating airflow and which is mounted to an air hose of the device that extends from the electric air pump to the inflatable cushion;

FIG. 7 is an electrical schematic of the bathtub lift device of the present invention showing the air pump powered by standard residential house current from a wall outlet or electrical receptacle; and

FIG. 8 is an electrical schematic of the bathtub lift device of the present invention illustrating the use of a rechargeable battery for providing power to the electric airpump.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE PREFERRED EMBODIMENT

Illustrated in FIGS. 1-8 is a lightweight, portable, durable and inflatable bathtub lift device 10 that assists and eases a handicapped or elderly individual in getting into and out of a bathtub on their own and without someone else's assistance. An individual convalescing or recovering from an injury in which additional care must be taken, for example, to protect the injured limb, can also use the bathtub lift device 10. The bathtub lift device 10 is thus a convenient addition to the numerous conventional assist products already on the market, and the lift device 10 of the present invention provides a measure of independence to such individuals by allowing them to be safely and stably lowered into a bathtub and safely and stably raised and lifted upward in order to get out of the bathtub.

A standard bathtub 12 is shown in FIGS. 3 and 4 and includes a pair of sidewalls 14 and a flat bottom or floor surface 16. Each sidewall 14 includes an exterior sidewall surface 18 and an opposite interior sidewall surface 20. In addition, each sidewall 14 includes a flat ledge 22 coextensive with the length of the respective sidewall 14. The bathtub lift device 10 is disposed within the bathtub 12 and upon the floor or bottom 16 of the bathtub 12.

As shown in FIGS. 1-8, the bathtub lift device 10 includes a generally rectangular-shaped inflatable cushion 24 that is preferably made from a strong and durable vinyl plastic or latex rubber and upon which the individual is seated for getting into the bathtub 12 and raised upwardly thereon for getting out of the bathtub 12. While the inflatable cushion 24 can vary in dimensions, one preferred dimension is for the inflatable cushion 24 to have a height of 12 inches, a length of 20 inches and a width of 12 inches. The inflatable cushion 24 includes an upper side 26, an opposite under side 28 and opposed long sides 30 and opposed short ends 32 with the ends 32 being perpendicular to the long sides 30. The upper side 26, underside 28, opposed long sides 30 and opposed short ends 32 enclose therein an interior cavity 34 for receiving air from an external source and from which air is evacuated concomitant with the inflating and raising and deflating and lowering of the cushion 24. The upper side 26 includes a non-slip surface 36 that further prevents the individual from slipping off the lift device 10 during the lowering or raising of the individual thereon. In addition, and for providing additional safety, an upwardly projecting rail 38 is located at each opposed end 32 of the cushion 24, and centrally located on each rail 38 is a handle portion 40 having an aperture 42 that the individual can grasp and hold while he or she is being lowered or elevated by the cushion 24. Moreover, attached to the under side 28 are a plurality of spaced-apart suction cups 44 that adhere to the bottom 16 of the bathtub 12 for maintaining the lift device 10 in position and preventing any shifting or movement of the lift device 10 as the lift device 10 is being inflated or deflated and being used with the individual seated thereon. In the preferred embodiment of the invention, at least five suction cups 44 are disposed on the underside 28, and each suction cup 44 has a diameter of at least three inches. The cushion 34 is spaced inward from the interior sidewalls 20 of the bathtub 12 so that the inflation and deflation of the cushion 34 can occur unimpeded by the bathtub 12 sidewalls 14.

The cushion 24 is further comprised of interconnected cushion sections 46 that provide for the stable and uniform raising and lowering of the cushion 24 thereby avoiding the problem of having one end of the cushion 24 inflate—or deflate as the case may be—at a greater rate than the rest of the cushion 24 which would result in uneven and irregular cushion 24 inflation or deflation. Such uneven inflation and deflation could destabilize the individual seated upon the non-slip surface 36 of the upper side 26. Thus, the adjoined sections 46 are disposed in a stacked arrangement of one upon another and are interconnected to each other to provide for a uniform accordion-like extension of the sections 46 concomitant with the filling of air in the interior cavity 34 during the inflation of the cushion 24, and for a uniform accordion-like contraction of the sections 46 when air is withdrawn from the interior cavity 34 during the process of deflation of the cushion 24.

As shown in FIGS. 1, 3-5, 7 and 8, a portable and lightweight electrical air pump 48 is used to deliver air into the interior cavity 34 and to evacuate air from the interior cavity 34 of the cushion 24. The electrical air pump 48 may be similar to the type of air pump used to inflate and deflate air mattresses used as support for sleeping bags for outdoor camping. The electrical air pump 48 is generally housed or encased in a square-shaped portable waterproof housing or casing 50 and includes a manually operable on button 52, an off button 54, and a reverse (motor) button 56 that are all externally mounted upon the casing 50 and electrically interconnected to standard electrical circuitry contained within the housing 50.

An inlet 58 mounted to the cushion 24 and projecting outwardly therefrom communicates with the interior cavity 34 and a flexible airline or hose 60 connects at a first end to the inlet 58 and at a second end to the electrical air pump 48 so that air can be delivered by the air pump 48 through the airline 60 and into the cavity 34 of the cushion 24 or withdrawn from the cavity 34 through the airline 60. A manually operable two way airflow control and release valve 62 is mounted on the airline 60 and includes internal valve structure disposed within the bore of the airline 60 that regulates airflow to and from the interior cavity 34 of the cushion 24. The airflow control and release valve 62 includes a rotatable dial 64 mounted to the external body 66 of the valve 62 and includes two settings: an empty setting or position 68 for allowing the withdrawal of air from the cushion 24 and a fill setting or position 70 for directing air from the electrical pump 48 through the air hose 60 and into the cavity 34 of the cushion 24.

As shown in FIGS. 1, 7 and 8, the electrical air pump 48 receives power from a standard wall outlet or receptacle via a 110-volt power cord 72 terminating with an electrical plug 74 for plugging into the outlet or receptacle. In addition, and to provide more flexibility of use for the device 10, a rechargeable battery 76, such as those used for power tools and machinery, can be used in place of the power cord 72 and wall outlet. Thus, shown in FIG. 8 in particular, is a rechargeable battery 76 for disposition within a battery compartment 78 of the housing 50 and/or body of the air pump 48 for supplying power to the motor 80 and fan 82 unit of the electrical pump 48.

A representative manner of use for the bathtub lift device 10 would be to first position the inflatable cushion 24 within the bathtub 12 and upon the floor 16 of the bathtub 12. The air pump 48 and the valve 62 would be placed within easy reach—but not on the bathtub ledge 22—for the individual. A convenient and stable resting place for the air pump 48 would be on a stand positioned beside one sidewall 14 of the bathtub 12. The suction cups 44 would be adhered to the bathtub floor 16 after the proper positioning and locating of the cushion 24 within the bathtub 12. With the cushion 24 in the lowered or deflated position, the individual would set the dial 64 on the valve 62 to the fill position 70 and press the on button 52 thereby actuating the air pump 48 to draw in air 84 and force air 84 through the air hose 60 and into the cavity 34 for filling and inflating the interior cavity 34 of the cushion 24. After full inflation of the cushion 24 the individual would press the off button 54 and carefully ease into the bathtub 12 and sit upon the non-slip surface 36 gripping and holding onto the handle portions 40 for balance and stability. The individual would then set the dial 64 on the airflow control and release valve 62 to the empty setting 68 and the on button 52 and the reverse button 56 would then be pressed thereby actuating the pump 48 (the motor 80 and fan 82 unit) to withdraw air 84 from the interior cavity 34 back through the air hose 60 resulting in the deflation and lowering of the cushion 24. As air 84 is withdrawn from the interior cavity 34 the sections 46 simultaneously contract in an accordion-like manner thereby facilitating the uniform lowering of the entire cushion 24 and with the individual seated thereon into the bathtub 12. Upon deflation of the cushion 24 to the desired level (FIG. 3 shows the cushion 24 at complete deflation and FIG. 4 shows the cushion 24 at complete inflation), the individual would then press the off button 54 on the electrical air pump 48 and proceed to bathe. After bathing and draining the water from the bathtub 12, the individual would then turn the dial 64 on the valve 62 to the fill setting 70 and then press the on button 52 on the electrical pump 48. The electrical pump 48 would then be actuated to direct air 84 through the air hose 60 and into the cavity 34 thereby inflating and elevating the cushion 24. As air 84 fills the cavity 34 of the cushion 24, the sections 46 expand with respect to each other in an accordion-like manner, and the cushion 24, with the individual seated thereupon, inflates and raises the individual in the bathtub 12 to a level adjacent the ledges 22 of the sidewalls 14 of the bathtub 12. After the cushion 24 has been fully inflated and elevated relative to the bathtub 12 sidewalls 14, the individual would then press the off button 54 on the electrical pump 48 and then proceed to carefully, but with ease, get out of the bathtub 12.

While the invention has been illustrated in a bathtub lift device, it is not intended to be limited to the details shown, since it will be understood by those skilled in the art that numerous modifications, alterations, and variations can be made without departing in any way, shape or manner from the spirit of the present invention.