Jan 12, 2024 12:59 AM

Unique invention offers bathroom users a lift

Posted Jan 12, 2024 12:59 AM
<b>Mike Hoffman, owner of MikeWay LLC, invented the Warren Lift — a toilet that rises and lowers with a push of a button. His invention makes life easier for those with mobility issues. Photo/Chris Faulkner</b>
Mike Hoffman, owner of MikeWay LLC, invented the Warren Lift — a toilet that rises and lowers with a push of a button. His invention makes life easier for those with mobility issues. Photo/Chris Faulkner

By William Smith

For the past decade, Mike Hoffman has been selling an invention that has yet to catch on.

He is hoping that will change soon. The invention is simple enough to understand — a toilet that can be raised and lowered with a button. A godsend for a portion of an aging population that doesn’t want to go into assisted living, but may have trouble getting up and down from the toilet.

“This could keep someone out of the nursing home for a few more years,” Hoffman said.

Hoffman came up with the idea when his elderly father was having toilet issues at home. Those issues persisted at his nursing home, where two nurses had to lift him on and off the toilet.

Hoffman’s father stood 6 feet, 3 inches tall, which made hitting the toilet even harder. But the bigger problem was getting up when he sat down on the toilet. There was just too much weight, and his center of gravity was too low.

It took Hoffman and engineer Wayne Salzwedel six years to develop the product, which has continually become more streamlined in the past decade through the engineering process. Unfortunately, his father didn’t live long enough to see the result.

“He didn’t know about it, and he would have been mad that he didn’t get to use it,” Hoffman said with a laugh.

Under the company banner of MikeWay LLC, Huffman has sold more than 20 of the toilets. He’s almost sold dozens more to nursing homes but has been undone by how new the product is. Citing Hoffman’s lack of experience in installing toilets in commercial areas, many companies are leery to invest in a newly invented project.

The toilets sell for about $10,000 each, due in large part to the hydraulic pump that lowers and lifts the toilet. That part of the product is built into the wall behind the toilet, so the flushing sound is minimal.

“If they had these units in nursing homes, in assisted living, in hospitals, it would free up the CNAs,  free up their backs from getting injured, free up medical claims,” he said.

Hoffman recalled talking to one of the nurses caring for her father, and she admitted she had hurt her back trying to pick him up from the toilet.

“I think this can be a real life changer,” Hoffman said. “It has certainly been a life changer for all those people that have units.”

One of Hoffman’s customers told him how she had to stay up all night to help her husband get on and off the toilet, forcing her to sleep in the daytime. With the Warren lift, her husband was able to get up and down from the toilet on his own.

He still used the toilet on an hourly basis. But now she could sleep at night.

“She said it changed her life a great deal,” Hoffman said. 

After the toilets were engineered,  phase two of the project consisted of in-house testing. Between two electric units and a hydraulic unit, the company performed 200,000 cycles of testing. 

After that, the electrical units were scrapped in favor of the hydraulic units.

“When you have fewer parts, you have fewer problems,” Hoffman said. “What has amazed me is how well Wayne has engineered the product. I think we have a very cool-looking product.”

MikeWay also revamped its original switches used to operate the Warren Lift. Rather than be located on the wall behind the stool, the switches are located on the side of the stool for easy access to the user. 

MikeWay’s market for the Warren Lift includes homes, hospitals, assisted living complexes, and nursing homes. 

“It can lift a thousand pounds. That’s what it’s rated for. It (the hydraulic system) is used in dental chairs, hospital beds, and the industry.  So that’s what we use,” Hoffman said.

The money saved on nursing home bills could easily pay for the Warren Lift in a few years, Hoffman said. 

He plans on increasing his marketing and advertising to get the word out.

“Nobody wants to go to the nursing home,” he said.