Mondays with Mom: Gait Belt

Mom loved her accessories. She was the queen of necklaces, bracelets, and scarves. (Read here.) Aside from a pretty gown and matching socks, she doesn’t “gussy up” any longer. Being ready for the day is all about comfort and security. The only accessory she wears now is absolutely necessary for every step: the gait belt.

Most folks are familiar with this cotton webbing belt. It is two inches wide with a buckle or plastic snap in the front. Sometimes called a transfer belt, it is sold as a medical assistance for caregivers to use to move a patient with mobility issues from one position to another. In usual use, it is fastened at the natural waist, below the ribs. Because of Mom’s spine and broken arm, we fasten her belt under her arm pits and around her upper chest.

I have a love/hate relationship with the gait belt. In my caregiving experiences, I have used them often. Because they are manufactured as one-size-fits-all, I have had many instances when the belt slipped through the buckle, causing a brief moment of panic on my part. Our amazing caregiver, Laverne, took Mom’s belt to the shoe cobbler who sewed the buckle in place. It was a huge improvement and I recommend it for everyone who has a slipping belt.

Without the belt, it is very difficult to lift Mom. Although she is less than half her original weight, she has compacted into a slightly askew shape. Due to her spine compaction, broken left arm, and arthritis in left wrist and both knees, her body betrays her when she needs to move. The caregiver has to hold Mom close and sway right and left to get Mom walking. I have described it as dancing. It reminds me of when I would dance with my little children with their feet on top of mine.

When we first needed the belt with Mom, Dad had to learn from scratch. Thankfully, there are wonderful videos on YouTube showing the use of a gait belt. We are also blessed with caregivers who have lots of experience in its use. It is an important tool in her care.

Mom’s osteoporosis is advancing and we recently learned her spine is continuing to collapse. The surgery that helped her so much in the early days is not an option now. Sometimes the pressure from the gait belt is unbearable on her spine, but thankfully, most days she doesn’t hurt. On the painful days, we wrap her in a bear hug and move her as gently as possible.

She is resting peacefully now, gait belt wrapped around her, ready for the transfer to the bathroom or dining room table. It may be only a cotton webbing belt, but it brings us great peace of mind for her care.

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