Gait belts help protect patients and caregivers from unnecessary injuries and are most commonly used in health care settings. Made from a thick strip of nylon, leather or canvas, gait belts must be sturdy enough to support an adult’s body. Although they are safety devices, they can cause injury when used improperly. Following the suggested information on the proper use of a gait belt ensures patient and caregiver safety.
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The most direct function of a gait belt is to help move a weak person from one place to another. A gait belt is secured around the waist to allow a nurse to grasp the gait belt to lift or move a weak patient, such as from a bed to a chair. When the patient is walking, the nurse also holds onto the gait belt to keep the patient stable and balanced. When used properly, the belt protects the patient from falling and also protects the nurse from injuring his back as he lifts or moves the patient.
Securing the Belt
The gait belt should be wrapped around the patient’s waist with the belt’s buckle in front. To avoid discomfort, place the gait belt over the patient’s clothes rather than directly against the skin. If that patient is extremely thin or frail, place a towel between the belt and her body. Thread the loose end of the belt through the teeth in the buckle, then through the remaining two openings. Pull the end of the belt so that it is snug around the patient’s waist. You should be able to slide just two fingers between the belt and the patient’s body.
When lifting a patient between a bed and a chair, first bring the patient to a seated position with her feet firmly on the ground. Position yourself between the patient’s legs with enough room to allow your feet to pivot on the ground. Bend at your knees as you reach your arms around the patient to grasp onto the gait belt near her lower back. Keeping your back straight, use your leg and arm muscles to lift the patient to a standing position. Pivot your feet toward the patient’s new destination, turning the patient in the same direction. Slowly lower her onto the bed or chair before releasing the gait belt. Using the pivoting motion to move the patient is essential to avoiding caregiver injury. Twisting at the waist or knees can result in muscle strains or dislocated joints.
When helping a patient walk with a gait belt, stand to his side and slightly behind. This position allows you to keep a secure grip on the back of the gait belt without interrupting the patient’s movement. In most cases, you will only need to grasp the belt with one hand while walking. However, if the patient’s risk of falling is extremely high, you might choose to grasp the belt with both hands. If the patient begins to fall while you are walking, bring your body close to his and use the gait belt to slowly lower him to the ground.