Before ambulating a patient with a gait belt, the patient’s mobility status needs to be determined. To avoid syncope or orthostatic hypotension, the caregiver should start by asking the patient to complete a series of small movements. Begin by having the patient elevate their head of bed or slowly sit up in bed. If the patient is able to withstand this first stage of movement, the caregiver should observe the patient’s strength and head control in a seated position. If the patient is able to independently maintain a seated position, have the patient dangle their legs off the bed while holding on to the side rail. To determine a patient’s lower body strength, have them straighten their legs and complete leg raises. If the patient is able to complete all of these interventions, they are ready to get up and moving.
Some patients have contraindications that prevent them from utilize a gait belt, including: recent chest, abdominal or back surgery, abdominal aneurysm, G-tubes, hernias and severe cardiac or respiratory conditions.
Gait belts are made of either cloth or plastic and have a buckle that can securely fasten around the patient’s waist. Before applying the gait belt to the patient, it should be inspected to make sure that the buckle is intact and that the belt is not broken in any way.