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If you have to lift someone on a regular basis, it is good to consider purchasing a gait belt, also called a transfer belt. Proper use of a gait belt can reduce the struggles involved with this task and lower the risk of back injury. (A gait belt is not a substitute for good body mechanics when transferring an individual. Do not overexert yourself, and ask for help when you need it.)
A gait belt is an assistive device which can be used to help safely transfer a person from a bed to a wheelchair, assist with sitting and standing, and help with walking around. It is secured around the waist to allow a caregiver to grasp the belt to assist in lifting or moving a person. When used properly, the belt protects the care recipient from falling and also protects the caregiver from injuring his or her back as they lift or move the care recipient.
A gait belt is usually 1-½ to 4 inches wide, and 54-60 inches long. The belt is made out of canvas, nylon, or leather with a buckle at one end. You can purchase a gait belt at medical supply stores, large pharmacies, online (e.g. Amazon), or even stores like Walmart.
View video on how to put on a gait belt.
A gait belt should be used if the care recipient is partially dependent and has some weight-bearing capacity. Here are some benefits of using a gait belt:
Be extra careful if the care recipient has a feeding tube, catheter, or medical issues involving their abdominal area. Consult with a physician about proper lifting under these conditions to find out if using a gait belt is safe.
View video on how to properly lift someone with a gait belt
View video on how to walk with a gait belt
Caregivers can help guide the care recipient, provide extra support, and safely lower the patient to the ground if he or she starts to fall. If the care recipient starts to fall, use the belt to slowly guide him or her downward with their spine gliding down the front of your leg.
For more caregiving resources and presentations on transfers, please visit the “I am a caregiver” section of our website.
1. Aurora Health Care. (2008). Use of a transfer belt. Retrieved from: http://www.aurorahealthcare.org/FYWB_pdfs/PE-2244-88.pdf
2. United States Department of Labor. (2009). Ergonomics for the prevention of musculoskeletal disorders. Occupations Safety and Health Administration. Retrieved from: https://www.osha.gov/ergonomics/guidelines/nursinghome/final_nh_guidelines.html
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