How to Use a Gait Belt

A Safe and Smart Transfer

The use of a gait belt during transfers will protect both the elderly and the person attempting to assist them.

Fall prevention can be made easy and safe with the use of a transfer belt.

One of the key aspects of fall prevention is to use a the belt any time you are assisting an elderly person to transfer or walk.

It will give you a safe and secure area to hold on to and support your loved one. It will also help support your own back.

The key is to position it properly and use it correctly.

We will go through the steps of how to apply and use the transfer belt safely.

Because they are all made so similar, cost can be one of the deciding factors in choosing the right belt.

The best price and quality I have found over the years is from Prestige Medical.

The function and construction of this belt is the same as more expensive varieties.

This is identical to the belts we bought in bulk for the Skilled Nursing Facility.

Review the steps carefully. If you are having problems learning how to use it, see if their doctor can order some home physical therapy to provide hands on training.

Even if you don’t think you need it now, I would recommend ordering one to have on hand should you experience a sudden change and need some assistance transferring your loved one.

The steps in using a gait belt are quite simple and easy once you are familiar with the process. Practice before you need it so you are comfortable in how to correctly position it and how to use it.

Step One

Begin by placing the belt around their back and bring the open, buckle ends to the front.

Make sure there is no breast tissue under the belt and do not put the belt directly against bare skin.

Step Two

Feed the metal end into the buckle portion of the belt that has the “teeth” on it. Pull the belt securely and snugly.

Step Three

Feed the metal end under the other end of the buckle and pull tight. You should be able to just two fingers between the belt and their body.

Step Four

Have your loved one lean forward if they can. Stand in front of them with your arms over theirs and grab the gait belt at their back.

Have them hold you around your waist, not around your neck.

Rock back and forth, counting to three before standing them up.

Keep your body physically close to theirs and keep your knees in front of theirs at all times. If they become weak or begin to fall and you can’t support them without twisting and straining your back, gently lower them to the floor with the gait belt.

Step Five

Complete the transfer without bending or twisting your body. Encourage them to bear as much weight as possible on their legs and gently sit them down.

Step Six

Once they are in position and comfortable, remove the belt. Do not leave it on them. It may be easier to just unbuckle it and leave it behind their back if you are expecting to do another transfer in a short amount of time.

It is that simple and the use of it can prevent injury to both you and your loved one. There are some cautions, however, that you need to be aware of prior to using a gait belt.

  • Tightness: A belt is not particularly comfortable but it must be tight enough to not slip up their body during the transfer. Just let them know it is temporary and will be removed as soon as the transfer is done.It must fit securely around the waist. If it is too loose, you run the risk of it sliding up the body and becoming ineffective as a transfer aid.

  • Skin issues: Make sure there is no breast tissue under the belt and always remove it when it done. A gait belt left on and tight can lead to rapid skin breakdown, including rashes, abrasions and even pressure ulcers.Never put the belt directly on their skin. If they have no clothes on, try putting a pillow case around the belt to protect the skin.

  • Uses: Never use a gait belt to drag someone. Call emergency services for assistance if they are on the floor and completely unable to assist you with getting up.

  • Care: Because the belt doesn’t go directly on the skin, you shouldn’t have to wash it very often. If it does become soiled, try securing socks over the metal ends to protect your washer and dryer.

  • Infection Control: I recommend bringing your own gait belt to doctor’s appointments and encouraging them to use your loved one’s own belt.

  • Although doctor’s offices are cautious about infection control issues, you never know that may be on another belt.

I have had many clients that would resist the use of the transfer belt.

If your loved one is resistive, try encouraging them to use it out of protection for you.

Tell them it is temporary, you will remove it when done, but that your back really needs the added support.

Caring for your loved one at home is a tough and physically demanding job.

Assure that they are safe and that you are protected by using a gait belt to assist with transfers.

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