What Is the Fast Scale for Dementia?

What Is The FAST Scale for Dementia?

August 06, 2021

Written by David Lemieux

Fact checked by The Brain Blog Team

 

 

The FAST Scale for measuring dementia has been used since the 1970s and is a tool utilized globally to help manage treatment for people living with the disorder. 

Early Perceptions About Dementia

In the earliest human cultures, people viewed the idea of dementia as a regular part of growing older. It wasn't until people began living longer that the medical community started studying the human brain and its relationship to disease and health. In the early 1900s, two psychiatrists in Germany were simultaneously studying post-mortem brains with different focus areas. Alois Alzheimer examined the brains of younger people. Meanwhile, Oskar Fischer examined the brains of older people, paving the way for scale dementia standards in the future. 

The First Case of Alzheimer’s Disease

 

Alois Alzheimer published the case of a 50-year-old woman in 1906 because the post-mortem examination results caught his attention. He was astonished to see microscopic plaques and tangles in that brain, which correlated with what Fisher was also finding in post-mortem brains of some older people. 
 
Amyloid plaques are proteins that disrupt cell function, and neurofibrillary tangles are proteins that block communication between neurons. Alzheimer and Fisher's studies revealing plaques and tangles were crucial for further research. Still, when another psychiatrist attributed these findings to Alzheimer’s Disease, the timing wasn’t in their favor. World War II broke out shortly afterward, and Fisher’s work fell out of the spotlight.

Developing the Fast Scale for Dementia

Before and after Doctors Alzheimer and Fisher discovered plaques and tangles, doctors described dementia in various ways and developed terms like "benign senescent forgetfulness" in 1962. Some even quantified ways to measure the stages of dementia.

In the late 1970s, a professor of psychiatry at New York University began making great strides in studying dementia and Alzheimer's. Dr. Barry Reisberg introduced a reliable way for families and medical doctors to measure symptoms of dementia to understand patient needs and provide the best treatment possible, calling it the Functional Assessment Staging Tool or the FAST Scale.

Getting FAST Scale Results

The FAST Scale is the most widely-used method of measuring dementia severity throughout the world today. A specialized medical team works with the family to observe the patient and carefully answer questions, which typically only takes a few minutes.

The Stages of Dementia According to FAST

There are seven stages in Dr. Reisberg's Functional Assessment Staging Tool (FAST) to measure dementia. 

 1 - No cognitive decline - Your loved one doesn't have difficulty with memory or learning. 

 2 - Very mild cognitive decline - The individual misplaces objects and forgets places or names they once knew well, but they can still function independently. 

 3 - Mild cognitive decline - The person has trouble with organizational skills and making plans.   

 4 - Moderate cognitive decline - Your loved one struggles to perform complex tasks like dealing with money. Making plans becomes more challenging.    

 5 - Moderately severe cognitive decline - At this level on the FAST Scale, the person living with dementia cannot survive without help, and they don't know current events or time.    

 6 - Severe cognitive decline - A person with this level of dementia cannot dress, bathe or use the restroom without assistance.   

 7 - Very severe cognitive decline - Someone at this stage on the FAST Scale speaks only a few words a day and needs help to move their body.

Why the FAST Scale for Dementia Matters

 

The benefit of familiarizing yourself with these seven stages is it helps ensure that the person living with dementia receives the proper diagnosis and treatment, slowing the progression of symptoms, reacting quickly, and preparing for what is ahead.

 

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