How to Put on a Gait Belt
A gait belt is a very useful tool when you need to lift a semi-mobile patient or individual for whom you are providing physical care. To put the belt on, wrap it around the patient's waist and adjust the tightness so that it is both secure and comfortable.
Prepare Yourself and the Patient
Wash your hands.Before handling the equipment or the patient, you should wash your hands thoroughly with soap and warm water.
Explain the process.Let the patient know that you intend to put the gait belt on. Describe how it goes on, what it will be used for, and when it will be removed. Answer any questions that the patient might have, as well.
Dress the patient in the right clothes and shoes.Make sure that the patient is wearing loose, comfortable clothes and shoes with a sturdy rubber sole.
- You will need to place the belt over the patient's clothing. Never put a gait belt on directly over bare skin.
- Shoes with rubber soles are ideal since they will give the patient the greatest amount of grip when his or her feet hit the floor. This will make it easier for the patient to stand (if necessary) and can help prevent accidental falls during the transfer.
Prepare any necessary equipment.If your patient needs any additional equipment, make sure that it is ready and waiting before you put the gait belt on.
- If you are transferring the patient to a wheelchair, the wheels of the device should be locked.
- Make sure that the wheelchair, walker, or cane you intend to transfer the patient to is directly next to you and within sight of both you and the patient.
Put on the Belt
Lower the patient's bed.For patients lying in bed, adjust the level of the bed so that it is as low to the ground as possible.
- Doing so reduces the risk of possible injury and makes the application and use of the gait belt much easier.
- You should also make sure that the wheels of the bed are locked in place. If the bed were to shift during the transfer, you and/or the patient could be injured.
Help the patient sit up.The gait belt is easiest to put on when the patient is sitting up straight in a bed or chair. As long as the patient is physically capable of sitting up, you should ease him or her into that upright position.
- Help direct and move the patient so that his or her legs can hang over the side of the bed.
- Pause after this part of the process to make sure that the patient does not become dizzy. Do not continue with the patient in an upright position if he or she complains of dizziness or claims to feel faint after this.
- If the patient cannot maintain a sense of balance while sitting or must otherwise remain flat, you can put the gait belt on while he or she is lying in bed. The procedure is essentially the same but does require more strength on the part of the person who will lift the patient.
Wrap the belt around the patient's waist.Center the belt horizontally around the patient's waist. Do not wrap it around the chest or hips.
- If the patient is very frail or sensitive, you may need to place a soft towel in between the belt and the patient's body to prevent the belt from digging into his or her skin.
Snap the belt securely in place.Snap the buckle together, centering it over the front or back of the patient.
- The buckle should actually be positioned just a little off-center. Right-handed caregivers should position the buckle to the right of the spine, but left-handed caregivers should position the buckle to the left of the spine.
- Listen for an audible "click" when you snap the buckle halves together. Regardless of whether you hear the noise or not, you should also make sure that the buckle is secure by tugging outward on the belt in opposite directions on either side of the buckle.
Tighten or loosen the belt as needed.As a general rule, you should be able to slip two fingers in between the patient and the belt without any excess room.
- The belt must be tight enough to prevent it from moving up or down the patient's torso as you work.
- On the other hand, it must also be loose enough to be comfortable and easy to grab. At no point should the belt squeeze or constrict the patient.
Lift with the Gait Belt
Face the patient in the right direction.Gently turn the patient until that individual can see the spot he or she is being transferred to, regardless of whether that spot is a wheelchair, walker, or other option.
- If the patient has a weak side, his or her strong side should face the intended transfer destination.
Stand as close as possible.Move in toward the patient, positioning yourself as close to him or her as possible. Keep your feet apart, your back straight, and your knees bent and flexible.
- You should face the front of the patient. Do not attempt to lift from the back.
Grab the patient at the waist.Wrap your arms around the patient from the front. Slide your hands under the belt and hook your thumbs over the other side to help anchor your grip.
- Make sure that you hold the patient at the waist and not around the arms or shoulders.
- Bring both of your hands up from the bottom of the belt with your palms away from the patient's back. Dig firmly into the web of the belt with your hands when you grab onto the gait belt.
- When held correctly, your elbow should be behind the patient's back in a way that would allow you to use it to help steady the patient if he or she began to fall.
Lift and move in the right direction.Lift the patient using leverage provided by your knees. Move your body in the direction of the transfer as you lift.
- If the patient is capable of doing so, encourage him or her to push on the mattress with his or her hands as you lift. Ask the patient to place his or her feet on the floor, too.
- If it is possible for him or her to do so, instruct the patient to stand briefly while leaning toward you as you adjust your grip.Note that patients who cannot use their legs will not be able to do this, however.
- As you lift, you may need to remove your non-dominant hand from the gait belt to support the patient's back. Always keep your dominant hand hooked into the gait belt, though.
- Move your entire body as you move the patient. Do not twist your back since doing so can cause an injury to you.
Transfer to the necessary wheelchair, cane, or walker.Gently lower the patient into the wheelchair or seat, or help the patient stand in an upright position as a walker or cane is readied.
- If you are lowering the patient into a chair, encourage him or her to reach toward the destination as you lower that individual into it.
- Similarly, you should encourage the patient to grab his or her walker or cane before you release your grasp on the individual. When using a cane, note that the patient should hold the cane with the hand located on his or her strong side.
- If you are using the gait belt to assist the patient as he or she walks, position yourself diagonally and slightly to the rear of the patient on that individual's weak side. Hold the belt using an underhanded grip near the small of the patient's back as you help him or her take each step.
Remove the belt when it is no longer needed.Once the entire transfer is complete, unsnap the buckle and slide the gait belt off of the patient.
- To remove the belt, simply unsnap the buckle and unwrap the belt from around the patient's waist.
- Help the patient ease back down into a lying position in the bed when necessary.
- Wash your hands again with hot water and soap when the entire process is finished.
- Never use a gait belt that appears to be frayed or otherwise damaged.
- If the patient is too heavy or otherwise too difficult for you to move on your own, ask for assistance. Never attempt to move a patient unless you feel confident in your ability to do so without causing injury to yourself or to the patient.
Things You'll Need
Wheelchair, walker, or cane
Sources and Citations
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Video: Using a Gait Belt Safely and Effectively On Any Size Person
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