How do I learn proper gait belt use?
A gait belt can be an excellent caregiver tool to help a patient rise, sit and ambulate with assistance if they are not steady enough to do these tasks themselves. The first thing a caregiver must do is assess the condition of the patient and determine if they are well suited for gait belt use. If so, a caregiver must decide which kind of gait belt is most beneficial for the situation. Lastly a caregiver must learn to properly use the gait belt to ensure proper safety techniques are being used to benefit both parties. Please read on to gain valuable information on how to learn proper gait belt use.
What is a gait belt and why do I need one?
A gait belt is a device that usually fits around a patient’s waist that enables a caregiver to properly assist in supporting the rising, sitting and ambulation of a patient that may have balance or gait issues. Gait belts are great tools for both the caregiver and the patient in providing stability and a reduction of fall risk. A gait belt should always be considered if 1) a caregiver can reasonably maneuver and support their patient, 2) the patient has difficulty rising, sitting, walking or transferring on their own, and 3) the patient is not too large for the benefits and safety of the gait belt. (If the patient is too large or their waist is too big for a gait belt they may need to consider a sling or hoyer for a transfer assist.)
Did you know each year, millions of older people—those 65 and older—fall. In fact, more than one out of four older people falls each year. Gait belts can help prevent or reduce the injury of fall with proper use. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) Home Safety information :
Falls Are Serious and Costly
Gait belt design
Gait belts come in a variety of sizes, styles and materials. Some are simple buckle belts while others are bands with horizontal and/or vertical loops. Deciding which one to choose will depend on the patient’s needs and circumstances around its use. Buckle gait belts are the simplest and can accommodate waist sizes up to 72″. These belts are designed for those requiring minimal transfer assistance but want the extra fall risk support from a caregiver.
Belts with a band and loops provide greater transfer assistance options for those needing more support during rising, sitting and ambulation. Caregivers can stand on a patient’s weakest side and hold the loops closest to them for greater support. Padded gait belts also add a layer of comfort for those looking for a sturdier belt solution.
Both style gait belts can be worn at the chest level if the patient has recently had abdominal surgery or other problems wearing it at waist level. The main thing to remember is the gait belt needs to be snug on the patient if you are going to prevent or mitigate the fall! If the belt is not snug it will slide up your patient’s body and your patient will fall uncontrollably.
Gait belts are made cotton, canvas, nylon and leather and come with buckle or snap fasteners. Most are machine washable which helps reduce the risk of infection from bacteria build-up.
|Gait belt with metal buckle||Padded gait belt with horizontal and vertical belt loops|
When do I use a gait belt?
A gait belt is used:
- when transferring a patient from bed to chair, wheelchair or commode and back
- when assisting a patient in sitting or rising from a seated position
- when transferring in and out of a vehicle
- when transferring on and off a toilet
- when moving around in the home or a facility (such as a skilled rehab center, assisted living center or hospital)
- entering or existing the home (help on stairs)
There are many places and times in which is a gait belt is extremely useful or even necessary. Sometimes patient may just need extra support following a surgery or an illness that has made them weak. Do not hesitate to use a gait belt in these situations even if they can ambulate fine under normal circumstances.
Caregivers need to carefully evaluate the patient’s situation and determine if the patient can perform most the of the rising, sitting and ambulation tasks themselves or if another solution, such as a sling or automated lift system should be implemented. If a gait belt is recommended, the chosen belt must allow for good body mechanics for the caregiver and not put too much strain on their legs, knees and backs. Patients need to be able to rise, sit and ambulate on their own with minor support from the caregiver. The caregiver should avoid “lifting” the patient rather “supporting” the patient to avoid strain and injury to both parties.
Some caregivers may choose to leave a gait belt on for a period of time depending on the activity level of the patient. Even if that is not the case, please routinely check the patient’s skin for any signs of infection, rubbing, rash, tears or breaks indicating the gait belt could be causing a problem for the patient.
Gait belt training
Here is a very helpful video on properly use a gait belt.
|If you are unsure if a gait belt is right for your situation or have questions about your choice of belt please consult your medical professional prior to purchase.|
Fatal Injury Data – https://www.cdc.gov/injury/wisqars/fatal.html
Facts about Falls – https://www.cdc.gov/homeandrecreationalsafety/Falls/adultfalls.html