Any caregiver knows that ensuring the patient safety when being transported is one of the most important things that you can possibly do. That’s why a gait belt is so important. But just what should you know about a gait belt? How to use one? How it fits onto the patient? How it actually helps? We’re going to talk about all of these things as well as a lot more. That way, when it comes to caring for your patient, you’re going to have the information that you need to do it right.
What is the Purpose of a Gait Belt?
In short, a gait belt is used for a patient who is able to walk but is unsteady. Now, this person may already be using a walker or a cane to get around, but if they are not quite steady. Especially if they are in a hospital or other medical facility, a gait belt is a great way to provide that extra stability. This belt fits around the waist of the patient and provides you, as the caregiver, with a way of holding the patient upright in case they start to fall or lose their balance.
In medical facilities these may be used for all but the most stable of patients. Any patient who requires a walker or a cane may be required to move with the assistance of a caregiver and a gait belt. Anyone who is even the least bit unsteady should be directed to walk with one of these gait belts. That’s because they will increase overall safety for the patient as well as increasing safety for the caregiver. After all, a patient without a gait belt could be a fall risk and if they fall it could be hard on the caregiver as well.
The belt means that the patient feels safer and is safer. They’re less likely to fall because the caregiver can catch them. On the other hand, the caregiver is also safer because they don’t have to worry about injury to their back while attempting to move a patient. This is going to make it a better way all around, and the belt is super simple to use as well. Let’s talk about a gait belt. How to use it and where to put it.
How to Put a Gait Belt On
Placing a gait belt around your patient is actually quite simple. The belt itself looks like you would expect. It’s a piece of canvas, nylon or leather that looks similar to the belts that your children might have worn when they were younger (not as much like an adult style belt). They can be anywhere from 1 ½ inches wide to 5 inches wide and they’re made in different lengths to make sure that they fit around any patient who may need them, the same as a regular belt.
When you’re putting it on a patient you want to make sure that you’re putting it right around the waist. Don’t let the belt fall around their hips or raise it too high around their upper body. Placing it directly around the waist gives you control where their center of gravity is and that’s going to be safer for both of you. Putting the belt too high could cause you to pull them backward instead of pulling them up, and could also cause pain or injury to the stomach.
Putting the belt too low could cause you to pull them down yourself when trying to catch them because you’re pulling at the hips rather than the waist. It’s also possible that the belt may not stay at their hips and could actually slip off. From there, at best it’s no longer doing its job. At worst it could become a tripping hazard and actually cause the very thing you were trying to prevent, a fall. Putting the belt on and tightening it down properly (which we’ll talk about in a moment) is the most important thing.
You want to make sure the belt goes over the clothing so that you can grab hold of it easily. Then, you want to make sure you attach the buckle in the front of the patient. This is because you’re going to be standing beside them and you want to be able to grab the belt at their back. If you grab where the buckle is you could just release the buckle rather than pulling them upright when you are trying to use the belt.
It’s important that you thread the belt properly, so that it’s actually secured around their waist. This might mean sliding it through several loops, latching it through the teeth of the belt or some other method. It will depend on the specific belt that you’re using. Make sure you use the entire process so you can be sure that the belt is actually locked and that it’s ready to be used in case of a fall. You definitely don’t want to be in a situation where you need to use the belt and it fails because it was put on improperly.
When you tighten down the belt you should be able to get your fingers underneath it at the small of the back. This gives you the leverage that you need while also making sure that it’s comfortable enough for the patient.
Proper Use of a Gait Belt
Now, when you need to actually use the gait belt you want to make sure you’re fully prepared. That means knowing exactly how you should use it and how it’s going to work best for your patient and you. Keep in mind that you’re going to need it around your patient the right way. So take a look back at the last section to make sure you’ve put it on properly. This should be done before your patient even gets up out of their chair or off their bed. You want to be sure that the belt is going to be protecting both of you.
In order to bring your patient to a standing position you should step in front of them and grab hold of the belt on each side of them. You want to have your feet a little over shoulder width apart with one leg in front of the other. This allows you to brace yourself with your legs. You should have the patient put their arms around your neck to allow them to push themselves upright at the same time. This encourages them to also use their legs in the process of trying to bring themselves upright. Make sure that both of you are pushing up from the chair at the same time so you have your balance and they can help you. Also, pull only on the gait belt, not on the patient’s arms or anywhere else.
Transfer Belt vs. Gait Belt
If you’re looking at a transfer belt vs. gait belt you’ll find that they’re actually the same thing. In fact, the two words are used interchangeably by medical professionals and those within the medical community. If you’re looking to use one of these types of belts for your patients you can check online for either of these terms and find what you’re looking for. You’ll also have the ability to talk with your normal medical supplier to find out more about the different options and how you can locate the ideal belt for your patient, whether you’re a medical professional or a personal caregiver or family member.
When Should a Gait Belt Be Used
Okay, so do you actually need a gait belt? Is a gait belt going to be good for your patient? Let’s take a closer look at the specifics of that gait belt. How to use it and when to use it are some of the most important things. So, when should your patient be using this belt? The short answer is if their stability is at all a question you should be using a gait belt for them. If they have any level of instability when they are walking, even when walking with a walker or a cane, then they should have a gait belt to keep them safe.
A patient who has a difficult time getting themselves up to a standing position, which happens especially when someone is trying to get up from a low surface, may also need a gait belt. These belts provide just a little bit of extra support and allow you to get a good amount of leverage. That’s always going to be an important step when it comes to helping your patients, no matter how much or how little stability they may have for themselves.
In medical facilities it’s always a good idea to watch a patient’s stability and to give them the extra boost that comes with a gait belt. They may be able to stand or walk reasonably well for themselves, but if there is a question and especially if you don’t have a second caregiver to help you out, having a gait belt is going to be a good idea. Even if you do have a second caregiver to stand on the opposite side of the patient you may want a gait belt that you can use as a secondary method of security for the patient.
When Not to Use a Gait Belt
The belt should only be on the patient when they’re being moved or when they are walking. Do not leave these belts on for any other length of time or when the patient and caregiver are not actively using them. They can easily become snagged on other items or could simply be uncomfortable to the patient over an extended period.
Another scenario a gait belt shouldn’t be used is when a patient can’t support their weight. It can be dangerous for both the patient and caregiver if the patient collapses to the floor. The patient may need to use a different transferring device like a sit to stand lift.
Best Gait Belts to Consider
Okay, so you’ve seen the important information when it comes to picking up a gait belt. How to use it, how they work, what they’re really for and who can really get the most out of them. But now it’s time to take a look at some of the best options and see which one is going to be the right fit for your patient. We’ve found five that we think are the best, so take a minute to look them over and go from there. We know that each of these are going to provide you with the support that your patient needs, and that’s going to make both of you feel better about moving around.
This simple gait belt is designed to make the transfer process simple and easy with your patient. For this belt you get to choose between four different color options to fit your own preference as well as two different size options to make sure you have a good fit for your patient. The belt itself is designed in the simplest of styles, which means it’s a 2” wide strap that has a metal buckle to get a firm grip. There’s also a belt loop holder so you can make sure that the strap isn’t going to get in the way of you or your patient while you’re helping them.
Made with a sturdy and machine washable cotton webbing, this belt is also able to support a weight of 340 pounds, which helps you and your patient to feel more secure. Because of the design of the buckle it’s easy to put on and take off and it offers durability and a one year replacement warranty. You’ll also have the option for adding hand support loops that are made specifically for this belt while you’re at it. Though it’s a simple design, it’s definitely going to give you and your patient what you’re looking for.
|What We Like||What We Don't|
| Simple design is easy to attach
Inexpensive price point for any budget
Heavy duty canvas belt
Includes one year replacement warranty
| Belt is very stiff overall
Decorative stripes can be harder for buckle to grip
If you’re looking for a heavy duty transfer belt that’s going to really give your patient more security then you’ll want to take a closer look at this option. It’s a 5” wide gait belt, which provides even more distribution of weight, making it more comfortable for the patient if you do have to use the belt for its intended purpose. It also has handles and grips all the way around the belt, in 7 different places, to be exact. This gives you a better grip on the patient and more leverage in case you need it.
Made with a mixture of cotton and polyester, this belt ensures that each handle is securely fastened, so you don’t have to worry about grabbing hold of any of them to support your patient. It also features a plastic buckle with a metal buckle optional. Designed to be more ergonomic and comfortable for the patient to wear, this belt has actually been recommended by both physical and occupational therapists as an ideal design for any patient needs. It even has a quick-release feature so you can get it on and off when you want, making it easier for the patient as well.
|What We Like||What We Don't|
| Convenient hand holds/grips for easier leverage
More weight distribution over patient body
Heavy duty nylon construction
Inexpensive price point
| Somewhat heavy overall
Slides upward when used to lift patient
This heavy duty belt definitely provides for any patient who is struggling with stability and movement. It features six handles that are all made with soft plastic and extra padding, making them more comfortable for the caregiver. Not only that but the handles are all securely stitched directly into the belt for added durability. The varied placement of those handles also makes it easier for a caregiver to direct a patient as needed. Adjustable from 28” all the way up to 52”, this belt is designed to fit any patient that you might need. Not only that but it has a comfortable design.
The belt itself has a wider frame, which provides better distribution of weight for the patient when you do need to use it for lifting. The plastic buckle provides for a quick release and the design of the buckle means that adjusting to the right size is going to be a snap as well. It’s designed to offer better stability and though it can be a bit bulky for some, it definitely does what it’s designed to do and takes care of any patient who needs it.
|What We Like||What We Don't|
| Wide design for better weight distribution
Adjustable for a range of different sizes
Heavy duty nylon construction
Inexpensive price point for most budgets
| Plastic buckle is not ideal for strength
Not ideal for smaller users
Ready for a belt that combines some of the simple aspects alongside some more advanced ones? This belt is simple in overall design, but it does feature six handles all the way around. These are designed to offer you plenty of versatility in being able to grip the belt and to provide support for your patient at the same time. The plastic buckle provides a quick release while the wide nature of the belt itself ensures that you have a better weight distribution for patient comfort.
There’s a wide range for the belt to accommodate different patients and it has a high level of durability because of the nylon webbing and the reinforced stitching throughout, including for the handles. At 4” width through the back, this belt is definitely going to make sure that your patient is feeling more comfortable and secure when they’re being led around with this particular belt. It’s even designed to provide safe transfers for larger patients as well.
|What We Like||What We Don't|
| Sturdy and durable belt for smaller and larger users
Easy to use, ergonomically designed handles
Quick release makes it easy to put on and take off
Comfortable design overall for patient
| Can be difficult to keep the belt fully tightened
Can be a little bulky for some users
The final belt on our list is one that definitely looks like it’s heavy duty and it is. It comes in several different colors, so you can choose something that fits your personal style, and it has a wide range of adjustment for different size patients. It also has seven handles that go all the way around so your patient and you can decide on what’s the most comfortable and what’s the most convenient for different types of movement and transfers. It even has padded handles to make them more comfortable for the caregiver.
With these handles you get added foam, and the stitching all the way around is a heavy duty, so you don’t have to worry about the straps coming off when you’re using them. The plastic belt buckle provides for a quick release action and the wider size of the belt itself means that it’s going to distribute weight more evenly, making it safer and more comfortable for the patient if you do need to use this belt for its normal purpose. The belt itself is definitely going to help you keep a proper grip while you’re at it as well.
|What We Like||What We Don't|
| Seven grips all the way around
Thick padding for handles
Adjustable belt for different size patients
Wider belt for better weight distribution
| Can be bulky for some smaller patients
Heavier overall weight
Frequently Asked Questions
How to Use a Gait Belt When Walking
Now, if you’re looking to help your patient walk you don’t need to stand in front of them. Rather, you want to stand to the side with one hand gripping the gait belt at their back. This allows you to have good control if they start to fall or lose their balance but keeps you out of the way while they are walking. The patient may also need another transfer device to help them at this point, such as using a walker or a cane to help with their balance. The gait belt serves as a secondary way to keep them safe.
How to Use a Gait Belt to Transfer
Similar to using a gait belt to walk, a gait belt can also be used for transferring a patient. In these instances you would use it similar to the way you would bring a patient to a standing position. You would stand in front of them and brace yourself to take their weight. From there, you would assist in pulling them to a standing position. When you are transferring you would then assist the patient in taking a few steps to the new location by holding the back of the belt. This could be from one chair to another or from a chair to a wheelchair or the bed.
How to Use a Gait Belt with Handles
If the gait belt that you’re using has handles that’s actually going to make it even easier to use. The standard gait belt is a simple belt with no additional support or pieces. This makes it a simple tool to use. The ones with handles, however, are actually just as simple to apply and to use, but they’re going to be more comfortable for you and potentially more comfortable for the patient too. Especially if you need to actually use the belt to pull them to an upright position.
Gait belts with handles are built the same way as a standard belt, which means that you would attach it in the same way we’ve already discussed above. From there, these belts can come in all different varieties. Some belts have handles that are really just loops. These can slide all around the belt and you can make sure that they’re sitting where you want them when you start working with the patient. These are the least expensive and simplest options, but the handles aren’t generally high quality.
Higher quality gait belts that include handles will have built in handles. These belts are thicker so that the handles have something to attach to. They also tend to have handles built all the way around and in different styles (both vertical and horizontal) so that you can grab onto them from anywhere. These belts provide a more firm attachment for the caregiver to hold onto them. These belts are not necessary, but they’re definitely going to be a benefit for someone who wants the added security.
There are a number of different gait belts out there and you can absolutely find something that will work for you. Whether you are a professional medical caregiver or you’re a family member providing care for your loved one in their own home, having one of these belts will help you to keep yourself and them much safer.
Make sure you’re taking a closer look at each of the options we’ve found or look at the information we’ve provided and use that to help you choose the right gait belt for your needs. You definitely can’t go wrong with improved safety.