Helping Caregivers Support
Those With Dementia –
The Gait Belt
By Gary Joseph LeBlanc
I’ve had this idea brewing in the back of my mind for the last couple of years; or maybe I should call it a “wish.”
I “wish” to get a few physical therapists to donate an hour of their time to attend an Alzheimer’s caregiver’s support group meeting. I would like to see them give a 20 minute demonstration on the correct way to use a gait belt (transfer belt). Also, an explanation of the importance of using this helpful device.
There are so many ways for caregivers and their loved ones to get hurt. Not knowing the correct way to transfer is high on the list. A simple move from a bed to a chair, just a few feet away, can cause injuries to both parties.
Nothing seems to sink in better than watching a live presentation. I believe it is one of the best ways to learn.
If your loved one is unsteady on his or her feet for whatever reason, the use of this device can infuse confidence and a feeling of security.
A gait belt is usually made of canvas and is 2-3 inches wide. The length may vary depending on the size of the patients, and there is a choice of either a metal or plastic buckle. As for myself, I prefer a metal one as they seem to be more secure. There also are some that can be fastened by Velcro. Readily available, they can be purchased at WalMart or most other large chain pharmacies.
Before attempting to place the belt around patients, first show it to them and let them touch it, then gently begin explaining to them that this is meant to be used to prevent them from falling and that it will be removed after the transfer.
The belt is placed around the lower waist and is to be tightened to where two fingers of width can be slipped between the belt and the body. The belt should always be placed over clothing and never over bare skin. The tautness may have to be readjusted once they are upright.
If you are the caregiver, consider this; by using the beneficial mechanics of bending your knees, keeping your back straight and grabbing the sides of the belt, you can assist them to stand with decent leverage. Repeat this procedure when it comes time to sitting them back down. It’s all physics, my friends.
While escorting them as they walk, remember that the purpose of the gait belt is to steady them, not to drag them around. Try not to disrupt whatever fragile balance they may still have.
There are some situations where the belt should be avoided altogether. For instance, if they are complaining about any abdominal pain or if feeding tubes or other lines are involved, extra caution must be used.
For those who have been struggling to move or lift their loved ones, this device could become a blessing. There are many websites that show illustrations on the proper ways to use a gait belt. I suggest Googling them.
The patients’ safety, and yours, should always come first. I’m sure you wouldn’t place them in your car without wrapping the seatbelt around them. Use this same train of thought when it comes to a gait belt. If they are weak in the legs or have poor balance, get in the habit of using this belt. It could save all of you a trip to the emergency room.
By Gary Joseph LeBlanc, Common Sense Caregiving-