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When, Why, and How to Use a Gait Belt to Aid in Recovery

Marc Kaplan


Did you know 17.6 million American have trouble walking a quarter of a mile? This is approximately the distance covered on your average trip to the grocery store. Imagine if you were recovering from an injury or illness that limited your mobility?

There are solutions, and one of them is to get moving early in your recovery. This is true even if you need a little extra help in the beginning.

A Gait Belt is a device that can be used by a health care provider or caregiver to help you get up and moving.

Read on to learn more about the purpose and use of a Gait Belt.  

If you still have more questions at the end, we can help you find the right product to help you regain your mobility and get you back to your usual activities faster.

First, What Is a Gait Belt?

It is a 1½ to 4 inches (3.8 to 10 centimeters) wide and 54 to 60 inches (137 to 152 centimeters) long belt made of canvas, nylon, or leather with a buckle or secure fastener. It comes in many different colors and price ranges. They can be padded for more comfort to the patient, or have handles making the grip easier for the caregiver.

Gait belts fasten around the waist, with the buckle in the front. The health care provider or caregiver can use the belt to assist you in moving (transferring from a bed or chair to a standing position) or walking.

Second, When Not to Use a Gait Belt.

If you have had abdominal or pelvic surgery, this is not the right device for you. The gait belt, because it is placed around the waist, could cause re-injury. 

Be sure to check with your physician if you are unsure if this device is appropriate for you.

You have no mobility. Gait belts are designed to help you to move but does not totally replace movement on your part. You have to be able to assist in the movement, e.g. the transfer or standing/walking.

You should be able to stand and walk a few steps alone. The belt will allow you to stand and walk further with more confidence. This helps to speed your recovery. 

There are other devices if you are not yet able to assist in your own movement, that are available to use until you regain enough strength to use a gait belt.  

Third, How to Use a Gait Belt

Health care providers have training on how to use the gait belt. The skill is not difficult but caregivers should be trained in the proper use and be in good enough physical condition to be able to assist prior to using the gait belt.

  1. The belt should be secured around the waist with the buckle in the front. Make sure it is secured/locked in place. We don't want it to slip during use.
  2. The belt should be loose enough for a health care provider or caregiver to place their hand through the strap at the back of the patient/loved one with their palm facing them. 

Hint: Once you find the ideal strap location, an ink pen or sharpy can mark your belt so you can quickly place in the ideal position.

Transfer

Transfers depend on the location of the patient.  Remember communication is key to ensure the patient and caregiver move as one. 

If the patient is sitting in a chair:

  • The healthcare provider will stand next to them, with their hand through the belt, palm facing them, fingers pointing up.  
  • On the count of three, for example, the patient will push with their arms and legs to a standing position, while the caregiver assists them to the standing position. 

Hint: the caregiver should use good biomechanics to help lift the patient.  Remember to lift with your legs, not your back.

If the patient is lying in a bed, they should first move to a seated position. The process is similar to a chair transfer, but often there are no chair arms to press into to stand. This may require additional effort on the part of the caregiver. 

As an alternative:

  • The caregiver can stand in front of the patient,
  • The caregiver places their hands on either side of the belt,
  • The patient can place their arms on the caregiver's shoulders,
  • On the same cue, both stand. 

Walking

Once the patient is standing, they can begin walking. Again communication is key. 

Determine the distance or time your plan to walk and the end location PRIOR to assisting the patient. It is nearly impossible to move a chair into a position for a patient to rest AND help them stand or walk.

Allow the patient to set the pace, and walk one step behind them, holding securely to the gait belt.  

Whoops, the Dreaded Fall 

With proper planning, most falls can be prevented. However, if you are walking with a patient and they begin to fall, you can assist them to a gentle landing.  

Since you are behind them, you can use your body, specifically hip and leg as a slide for them to slide down to the floor. Be sure to check for injuries or get assistance before helping them return to a standing or seated position.

Time to Purchase

Now that you understand the role of a gait belt as well as when and how to use it, it is time to purchase. We are here to help you choose the right product as well. 

Monday through Thursday between 9 am and 5:30 pm EST & Fridays between 9 am and 5 pm we have representatives that can answer questions, typically within 15 minutes.

You can always place an order on our website at any time.

Sources

https://www.drugs.com/cg/how-to-use-a-gait-belt.html

https://www.allheart.com/blog/sa/b-gait-belt/

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gait_belt