Gait Belts. What in the world are those? And how do you spell them? Wait! GAIT – don't you mean GATE? Those were some of the many questions running through my head when my senior dad was in the hospice program and had started to fall more often. Previously, when he had taken a tumble, my mom and I would struggle to help him up. It was particularly difficult since he was much taller than us and still weighed more than us.
At this point, he had started losing some weight but it was still quite difficult to help him up. I was so grateful when one of the hospice nurses told us about gait belts and explained that they could help us help him up AND protect our backs at the same time.
Fast forward a few years to my CNA class and I felt like a bit of an "old pro" when I came across those funny-spelled but oh-so-handy gait belts again. I believe we used a cloth belt for my dad. According to Wikipedia, they did some morphing over the years – due to concerns about cleaning them and spreading "super-germs." They made some vinyl ones for a while. Now they also offer germ-killing materials. All of these are definitely necessary in hospitals where several patients might use them. At home, it might not be quite as necessary (though, of course, always check with your doctor on things like that.). I was pleased, however, to see that most of the gait belts at Amazon do say EASY clean (always two of my favorite words – especially the EASY part. As we in the Sandwich Generation know well, time is always at a premium and easy is always faster. ).
You can also find these handy dandy belts at most, if not all, of your local medical equipment stores in your area. Although, they might not all have the pretty pink ones that Amazon carries as you can see in the picture. Perfect for Pink Saturday, don't you think?
As to how to use them, read the directions carefully and follow them equally carefully. I would also recommend talking to your doctor for advice and directions. Posey is one of the main resources for Gait belts at the Amazon site, and they do have a book, "The Proper Use Of Posey Gait & Transfer Belts." Another excellent resource is one of the many nursing or nursing assistant books with instructions about the use of Gait belts, like Mosby's textbook that I used for the CNA course I took (and may I reiterate what an great idea it is for all caregivers – even family members – to take CNA training. What you learn there will be invaluable! Personally I think every high school student should be required to take it! )
It's also important to realize there are times to NOT use a gait belt! According to OSHA,
Contraindications for Use of Gait Belt:
Recent colostomy/ileostomy surgery
Severe cardiac condition
Severe respiratory problems
Recent abdominal, chest, or back surgery
Phobia regarding belts
I really do think these belts can be a big help for caregivers for a variety of uses and especially for those of us at home without extra people around all the time in case of a fall. And speaking of falls, the State of Washington has an excellent slide show presentation with great tips on how to prevent falls – it includes a couple of other items that could be useful for those of us caring for our elderly parents in the home, like the fall mat by the bed.
Isn't it grand to have such terrific resources readily available for us? I still have vivid memories of my parents caring for my elderly aunt and grandparents. It was much harder for them without as many useful resources AND without the internet to help them learn about the various options out there. What a blessing to be a Sandwich Generation caregiver in this day and age!
P.S. It's a good idea to explain the Gait belt carefully to your kids and grandkids AND impress on them that they are not to be used as toys OR moved since they need to be available at all times. I've learned with my grandsons that when I "enlist them" to help me help grandma and talk very seriously about something to help her, they take that responsibility very seriously indeed. It is such a joy to see these growing boys, who are totally normal and get in plenty of trouble, being so very careful around their great-grandma – helping her, giving her gentle back rubs, and watching out for anything that might hurt her. A sweet joy and a great learning experience for all!
P.S. Thank you so much for your comments. I appreciate them very much and read each one. I also do my best to reply to them all but, as you can imagine, there are times (many times, lately :) ) when caregiving needs do not allow for that. Thank you for your patience and your sweet comments.