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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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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