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Gait belts are devices used in the home and in medical care situations to transfer or move people from one position to another with relative ease. The function of a gait belt is intended to make the task of moving the patient less of a physical strain on the caregiver, while also making the transition from one position to another less taxing for the patient. Devices of this type are often used in nursing homes as well as hospitals. Hospice nurses and caregivers may also use the devices when caring for homebound patients.
The actual construction of a gait belt is very simple. For the body of the belt, webbing composed of cotton or a blend of cotton and synthetic blends is used. The weave and the general construction of the webbing make the device sturdy, while at the same time making it easy to clean the belt when necessary. A high quality metal buckle at one end of the belt serves as the mechanism for securing the belt in place on a patient. Most designs also add one or two padded grips or handles that the caregiver can use during the transfer.
To prepare the patient for transfer from one position to another, the gait belt is placed around the waist. In order to avoid tightening the belt to an uncomfortable level, the caregiver can place two fingers between the belt and the body of the patient while adjusting the fit with the use of the buckle. This procedure is particularly important when the patient is unable to verbally communicate with the caregiver to alert him or her to pain caused by a belt that is too tight.
One example of how a gait belt may be helpful is when moving patients from a standing position into a wheelchair, or vice versa. When the mobility of the patient is seriously impeded, it may be impossible for the individual to rise or sit without some type of assistance. The presence of the gait belt makes it easier for the caregiver to maneuver the patient into position without placing any undue stress on the caregiver’s back or legs. At the same time, the belt offers the support needed by the patient to make the transition.
Not all patient transfers can be managed with the use of a gait belt. In general, patients with catheters or IVs of some type should not be moved using this type of device. The belt is also not intended for use as some type of restraining mechanism to hold a patient upright in a wheelchair or other position. A gait belt should only be used when the patient transfer involves someone who is not encumbered with any type of attachments to various medical devices and is unable to make the transfer on their own. Even with the use of this type of belt, the transfer may still require the efforts of more than one caregiver, depending on the level of mobility and the size and weight of the patient.