How to Use a Bedpan

Last Updated: 22.02.24


If you’ve realized that helping someone with mobility problems use the shower or the toilet, even with the aid of tub transfer benches, is difficult, you might have to get a bedpan for that person. These items aim to help people who are not able to move at all or who have mobility issues and cannot use the toilet. Read on and learn how to use a bedpan if you or somebody in your care needs one. 


How to help someone who needs a bedpan

If you use the bedpan to help someone empty their bladder or bowel, you should reassure that person that this is a safe procedure and they should not feel uncomfortable or ashamed as you are only there to help them.

Before you take the bedpan, make sure you’ve washed your hands with soap and water and put on a pair of disposable gloves. Whether you are in a private house or a hospital, as long as there are any other people living there, you should close the door before you help someone use the bedpan, so that you avoid any additional discomfort caused by a lack of privacy.

Then, as you proceed, make sure you protect the bed sheets or cover from leaks by placing a waterproof sheet beneath the person. If you don’t have such a cover, you can use a towel.

Before using the bedpan, you should hold it for a few minutes under warm water so that it gets warm and doesn’t feel uncomfortable in contact with the skin. However, make sure it doesn’t become too hot, in case you use a metal one.

If you have talcum powder, you can apply it on the bedpan’s edge to slide it easier beneath the person. Pour a little bit of water inside the bedpan, to make it easier for you to clean it afterward. After you’ve helped the person remove the clothes they wear on the bottom half of their body, ask them to lie in a supine position or help them lie this way if they cannot move by themselves.

Then, put the bedpan right next to the person’s hip, as close to their body as you can. Afterward, you need to help them raise their hip and put the bedpan under their buttocks. You will have to be very careful not to cause them pain in this process.

If it is impossible for the individual to move, you have to slowly turn them on one side, and, as they are facing away from you, slowly push the bedpan beneath their buttocks and then roll the person on their back, so they lie on the pan. Don’t worry, the pan has curved edges to make all this process easier.  

Afterward, check one more time that the bedpan is positioned correctly, in other words, that it completely covers the person’s buttocks, and that it has sufficient stability. When it’s safe for the patient to start using the bedpan, allow them the necessary time to do this, and step away or leave the room so that they get the privacy they need.

Beforehand, don’t forget to provide them with toilet paper and wet wipes. These should be placed within easy reach either on the bed or next to it. Just make sure the one you care for doesn’t need to make an effort to reach them.

Once they are done, the person in your care will call you to collect the bedpan. If he or she was able to position the bedpan with little help beneath them, you simply need to ask them to move a little bit so that you can get it out slowly.

If the person cannot move at all, roll them again on one side while holding the bedpan so that its content doesn’t spill and remove the bedpan. Finally, once you’ve removed it, take it to the bathroom to dispose of the content and clean it.

How many types of bedpans are there?

If you want to purchase a bedpan for someone in your family, you will soon discover that there are many products on the market that you can choose from. Most bedpans are quite affordable, so you don’t need to worry about spending too much.

What you should take into account when choosing a product is durability. Even if the person you care for only needs this item temporarily, you still want a reliable solution that might prove useful in the future if the need arises again.

To make sure you get a resistant product, check what material it is made from and, if you have time, what other customers have written online about that product. Many bedpans are made of metal, which is aimed to last in the long term. Others are made of plastic which doesn’t necessarily mean they are less resistant. You just have to look for an option that seems sturdy enough. 

If you want to know what the most common types of bedpans are, this is their classification based on their design:

– Shovel shape bedpans or fracture pans: these items are rectangular, or they have a wedge shape. They are easy to use as the part that has to be positioned under the patient is flat and thin. Also, there is a handle on the opposite side so that you can easily hold and carry the bedpan.

– Concave bedpans: this is one of the most common types of bedpans. As its name suggests, it has a concave shape, with a curved seat that enables you to easily position it while creating as little discomfort as possible for the person who needs it.

– Cutaway bedpans: these look like a triangle with rounded angles. The seat of the pan is flat and it has a rolled edge that can help you grab it. 

– Single-use bedpan: this type of bedpan is meant to be used one time only and it has to be disposed of immediately afterward. They are normally made of cardboard.

Frequently asked questions


How do I have to clean the bedpan?

Bedpans are typically made to be reused, which means that you have to wash them in order to maintain proper hygiene both for you and for the person you are taking care of. Moreover, you want to wash the bedpan after each use in order to avoid any unpleasant smells.

The easiest and most efficient way to properly clean a bedpan is by washing it. Use warm water and any type of disinfectant that you would normally use to clean the toilet. You can also use soap to clean it and, in this case, it is recommended to add some antibacterial solution at the end to disinfect it. Sprays are efficient in this case.

Since these items are typically larger than a sink, it might be better to wash the bedpan directly under the shower or in the bathtub.

Before you clean the bedpan, you have to empty its content in the toilet. It might take a while before you get used to doing this as you might find the pan a little bit heavy in the beginning. Also, note that there are some models that are provided with plugs that can enable users to empty them faster and easier. 


How difficult is it to use the bedpan?

It can be more or less difficult to use these items based on their shape and if the person that requires the bedpan can move or not. If he or she has some degree of mobility and can move in order to help you position the bedpan correctly, it will not be very difficult. The size of the bedpan and its weight also determine how easy it is to use it. 


What should I pay attention to when using a bedpan?

Different difficulties can arise when you are using the bedpan, especially if this is the first time you use one. First of all, you have to pay attention to how you position the bedpan; read the instructions above once again to help you out, and also read the specific instructions of the product you purchased. 

If you position the bedpan incorrectly, you risk getting a leak which you would need to clean afterward. Moreover, you have to pay attention when transporting the bedpan as you risk spilling the content if you are not careful and you rush to get rid of this task quickly.  

Whether you assist someone who needs the bedpan, or you use it for your own needs, you will find out that it is not the most comfortable way of emptying your bladder and bowel. However, it is sometimes the only available alternative. 


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