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home | CareTips | Use a Gait Belt: Save Both Your Back . . .

Use a Gait Belt: Save Both Your Back and Your Wobbly Senior

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While everyone has their own definition of "indispensible" caregiving equipment, a gait belt runs right up at the top of most lists. If your senior is the least bit unstable and you don't have a gait / transfer belt, you're putting both of you at risk.

Kelly Radder wasn't using one when she "dropped" her husband last week. She broke a finger doing it, too. She's decided that hooking a finger through his belt loop when he walks is simply too painful. The pants are torn, he went down hard, and she now has an out-of-commission hand that's keeping her from doing what she needs to do for him. She went right out and bought a gait belt to use from now on.

Standard Woven    Gait Belt
   Standard Woven Gait Belt
A gait or transfer belt is the (usually) woven canvas belt you see therapists using in care facilities. Because the Creator didn't give human bodies good handles, these belts give the therapist something to grasp securely while the patient walks or transfers. A firm hand on the belt can help stabilize a patient, or can help the patient go safely to the ground if a fall is inevitable. They offer much better support than grasping a patient's arms or holding a fistful of clothing.

With gait belts therapists are more confident that they won't lose their grasp on their patient, and the patient with weakness, poor balance, or a fear of falling is more confident, as well. Therapists and caregivers are also at much less risk of hurting their own backs when they use one of these belts.

Gait Belt With Handles
   Gait Belt With Handles
Most gait/transfer belts are simply flexible belts made of canvas or nylon with a strong buckle. They are generally fairly long so they will fit comfortably around all but the largest patients. Some have specially constructed handles sewn in. They are certainly inexpensive for the amount of help they can be.

While they're not difficult to use, we always recommend that your senior be OK'd by a medical professional before using one. Certain conditions usually preclude the use of a transfer belt. Experts recommend that you not use one if your senior has had abdominal surgery, an aneurism, a colostomy, a feeding tube, advanced heart or respiratory disease, back or rib fractures or back surgery, or any other condition that would be made more painful by a transfer belt.

You should also get a lesson on properly fitting and using a belt before you try it alone. Like everything else, there are tips and tricks with gait belts.

An additional tip regarding gait belts: If your elder is in a hospital or a care facility, you may see gait belts being carried from room to room and patient to patient. Although many hospitals are now issuing belts to individual patients, most rehab and long-term care facilities do not. Care facilities that continue to permit the same belt to be used on multiple patients are simply asking for infection problems. Be sure that your senior has his or her own belt so that the risks of cross-contamination are reduced.