FAST Scale

If you are dealing with a patient with signs of dementia, you can use the FAST Scale in order to assess the severity of their dementia by checking on their symptoms.

By Matt Olivares on May 15, 2024.

Fact Checked by Nate Lacson.

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What is the FAST Scale?

The is an easy-to-use tool that was designed to help healthcare professionals assess patients with dementia, whether mild or adverse. The scale appears as an index arranged in seven stages and by severity in order to show the progression of dementia and the functional decline that is a result of the condition.

Here are the designations for each stage:

  • Stage 1: the patient is functioning normally
  • Stage 2: the patient might have a possible mild cognitive impairment
  • Stage 3: the patient has a mild cognitive impairment
  • Stage 4: the patient has mild dementia
  • Stage 5: the patient has a moderate-level dementia
  • Stage 6: the patient has a moderately severe level of dementia
  • Stage 7: the patient has severe dementia

Stages 6 and 7 are divided into several subsets based on how impaired their functioning is due to the condition.

For each stage, there are functional assessment designations, which are indications of what particular function is impaired or showing signs of being impaired by (a developing) dementia.

The FAST Scale is not a diagnostic tool so it is best to use it alongside other assessments and related instruments used in comprehensive examinations that will lead to an official diagnosis and treatment/management plan.

Printable FAST Scale

Download this FAST Scale to assess the severity of your client’s dementia symptoms.

How to use the FAST Scale

Indicate which Stage the patient falls on.

Using the FAST Scale is simple and straightforward. If you are a healthcare professional and you are using this tool, the only thing you need to do is indicate which stage your patient falls on. There is no scoring involved, so if you’re not fond of calculating numbers, you can rest easy.

The scale also does the work for you, because if you are wondering which stage your patient is supposed to be in, you only need to observe your patient and look at the Functional Assessment portion of the scale.

Determine what goes into your care plan for the patient.

Speaking of the Functional Assessment portion of the scale, that particular portion will indicate the impairments that the patient is dealing with because of their (developing) dementia. Looking at these as well as the specific stage your patient is on should help you determine what goes into your treatment plan. Do they need to take medication? Do they need someone to support them with certain activities of daily living? These are just two of the questions that you can answer when you use this scale.

It’s also recommended that you combine this with other assessments that you may have in order to get a more well-rounded view of your patient. By taking into other account other aspects of the patient’s life and other ailments they might be dealing with, you will be able to create a more comprehensive care plan for them.

Write your comments in the additional section we’ve added (optional).

This version of the FAST Scale is identical to how it normally looks but with two additions.

The first addition is the presence of radio buttons, so you can select which stage your patient is on. 

The other one is an additional comments box where you can explain the reasoning behind your rating of your patient as well as any directives you might want to give other members of your team helping you with this patient. Here, you can be as descriptive as you want.

FAST Scale Example

Now that you know what the scale is all about, it’s time to see what it looks like. For demonstrative purposes, here is a fully-accomplished FAST Scale sample.

Download this FAST Scale Example (Sample) here:

FAST Scale Example

Do note that the rating here and the additional comments provided were done with a fictional patient in mind.

If you believe that using this scale will help you better treat your patients with dementia, feel free to download a printable FAST Scale PDF from our platform! You can choose to print copies if you like having physical sheets around, or you can accomplish the scale digitally if you want to go paperless! The PDF has tickable radio buttons and the additional comments box has an editable field where you can jot down what you think should be written for documentation purposes or directives for your teammates.

When does one typically use the FAST Scale?

The FAST Scale is normally used when healthcare professionals are assigned to treat a person diagnosed with dementia, or if they have a patient exhibiting functional impairments that were not present before. It is used to set a baseline so that the professional, their teammates, the patient, and the patient’s loved ones/companions know where the patient is currently at in terms of functional decline due to (the signs of) dementia.

The FAST Scale is essentially a monitoring tool, so it’s not just used to set a baseline assessment of a patient. It is used every now and then to monitor the progression of dementia as well as the improvement/decline of the patient’s functioning. As to how frequently you should reuse the test, well, that will be up to you, but make sure to base your decision on how fast their functional decline is going and how fast the dementia is progressing.

If you are also at the point where you are developing a care plan, it’s recommended that you use this scale alongside other tools in order to determine what should be included in it.

Who can use the FAST Scale?

The FAST Scale can be used by the following healthcare professionals:

  • Physicians
  • Nurses
  • Occupational therapists
  • Neurologists
  • Neuropsychologists
  • Geriatricians
  • Geriatric psychiatrists

Any healthcare professional can use this for their work so long as they are highly trained and have enough experience in dealing with and treating patients suffering from dementia.

If you are planning on using this for your work, please remember that this is not a diagnostic tool and the decisions that you will make to help your patient should not be based on just the rating that you picked using this scale. Make sure you use other assessments to properly examine the patient, especially if you are making a diagnosis because the FAST Scale is not a diagnostic tool.

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Why use Carepatron for cognition-related software?

If you are using the FAST Scale, then it’s likely that your work revolves around treating patients afflicted with dementia. Dementia is a complex illness and may require comprehensive assessments in order to properly assess a patient who has it.

We did mention earlier that it’s recommended that you use this alongside other assessments as part of a patient’s comprehensive examination, so if you are looking for more assessments to add to your roster of tools, then you’d be glad to know that Carepatron houses a wide variety of worksheets, assessments, surveys, and a whole lot more that will help you with your work!

Carepatron also gives you access to a highly secure storage system that allows you to store files in a HIPAA-compliant manner as well as allowing you to set who can access them besides you.

You can store accomplished FAST Scales via our platform. Doing so essentially creates a digital backup of your files, so just in case you lose their physical versions, you can just grab the digital version and print them out. Or not if going paperless is your thing.

Storing your files via our platform also makes them easily accessible to you, anytime, anywhere, on any capable device (this includes smartphones and tablets!) so long as you have access to the internet. This is great, especially if you do house calls, which you are likely to be doing every now and then if your patient has severe dementia and can’t be brought to the hospital or clinic. You can simply access the scale on your phone or laptop, and then make your rating after assessing your patient.

Convenience. Accessibility. Security. You get all three with Carepatron.

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Can I use this scale to diagnose people with dementia?
Can I use this scale to diagnose people with dementia?

Commonly asked questions

Can I use this scale to diagnose people with dementia?

No. The FAST Scale is not a diagnostic tool. It is used on people who are already suffering from dementia, whether it is in its early stages or if it’s already severe.

What if I’m not a professional but I stumbled upon this? May I use this to assess myself?

No. Under no circumstance should you use this tool to assess yourself. If you already believe that you have early signs of dementia, then go see an actual professional rather than trying to examine yourself. It’s better if you find out from an expert so at least you know what can be done to manage it.

Is this truly a reliable tool?

Yes, given that it helps you decide what to do when it comes to treating your patient. The score designations should help you frame your decisions. Also, the scale rating is given based on your observations of your patient. Do remember that it would be best to also use other assessments alongside this scale so you can get a more comprehensive picture of your patient.

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