If you’ve ever tried helping your elderly 160 pound father out of his seat, you’re probably well aware of how difficult it can be to move somebody. Do you lift them from the arm pits? Grab them by the hands and pull? My back hurts just thinking about it.
No matter their size, if you’re taking care of someone that uses a wheelchair to get around, or are otherwise unable to stand up on their own, I’d highly suggest purchasing a gait belt.
I bought one for my dad last year on the recommendation of one of my nurse friends (thanks Nancy!) and I’ve probably saved a couple hundred dollars in chiropractic fees since then. These things make life so much easier.
What is a gait belt?
Also known as “transfer belt” or a “lift belt”, a gait belt is a simple device that will help you move your loved ones from one position to another. Worn around their waist, it provides you with a safe and convenient place to hold onto while helping them stand up. This not only prevents falls, but allows you to get into a more manageable position in order to reduce strain on your back.
While they’re all designed to achieve the same thing, there are quite a few options out there. Here’s a handful of the best gait belts I came across while searching for one myself.
Prestige Medical Gait Belt with Metal Buckle
If you’re looking for a standard, high-quality gait belt, this one from Prestige Medical fits the bill. It’s pretty much identical to the ones used by physical therapists and care home professionals, but at half the price.
The strap is made from thick 100% cotton, which you’ll find reassuring when you’re trying to lift someone without any help. It’s also machine washable, which is always a plus.
I really like the belt buckle on this one. It’s made from metal and features anti-slip teeth that help prevent the belt from coming loose. A lot of other gait belts on the market use a typical plastic buckle, similar to the ones you’d find on a backpack. My issue with this style is that they can sometimes be difficult for seniors to unclasp. With this metal belt buckle, all they need to do is pull back on the excess strap.
Secure Medical Gait Belt
Doing this write-up actually led me to replace my dad’s original gait belt with this one. As he’s become slightly less mobile recently (but still just as heavy!), the additional vertical and horizontal handles have made a huge difference in my ability to support him while he walks around.
That being said, the size and functionality of this particular belt might be overkill for some. The other traditional gait belts presented here are more suitable for everyday use.
The back portion of this belt is four inches wide, making it feel very secure around the waist. Some find that it can slip upwards if not tight enough, so make sure to check how it fits before lifting.
One thing to note is that this belt it pretty large. The smallest size is 52 inches long, so you’ll more than likely end up with excess material after it has been tightened. Some users have simply cut the end off, but I’ve found that folding the strap and wrapping an elastic band around it works just fine.
Universal Transfer Belt with Handles by Rose Healthcare
This gait belt by Rose Healthcare is halfway between the two belts mentioned above. Its uses a standard 2” wide, cotton strap – similar to the Prestige Medical belt – but with the added benefit of two handles. These handle straps really do make it easier to support someone, as they’re easier to grab a hold of.
Tommhanes Transfer Gait Belt
If you’re willing to spend a bit more, the Tommhanes transfer gait belt is well worth the money.
First and foremost, let me state that this belt is better suited for larger individuals. So if you’re looking for something to support your 100 pound mother, this probably won’t be ideal. Tommhanes recommends a waist size of at least 30”, otherwise you’ll end up having to overlap the belt.
Unlike the other belts mentioned here, this one is 4.7 inches wide the entire way around, providing considerably more lower back support. While the majority of the belt is made from nylon, the inner strap is padded with cotton, making it quite comfortable to wear. Note that this belt isn’t machine washable – hand wash only!
There are 7 vertical and 3 horizontal handles, providing more than enough places to hold on to. These are also padded for improved comfort. The belt buckle is the standard plastic ‘clip’ style, but it’s easy enough to remove.
One last feature that I want to call attention to is the reflective material included on the strap. I’ve always been a proponent of the ‘safety-first’ motto, and this definitely meets that standard.