Forgetfulness is something everyone deals with to some extent, especially as we age. Yet there comes a point where harmless forgetfulness turns into signs of something more sinister. There is a big difference between experiencing the common effects of aging and living with a degenerative disease that slowly erodes your cognitive functions.

If you are worried that you or a loved one may be showing early signs of Alzheimer’s or other dementia, there are things you can do now to begin testing for it. By having a healthcare professional walk you through a cognitive test, such as the 5-word memory test, you can better position yourself for early diagnosis and begin to prepare for proper treatment as soon as possible.

What Is the 5-Word Memory Test?

As dementia and Alzheimer’s disease become better understood, specific evaluations and check-ups have been developed to help discover their early signs. One of these such evaluations is a 5-word memory test. This verbal test is specifically designed to evaluate memory loss in seniors and can be conducted anytime and anywhere.

During the test, the individual will be presented with a small set of five common to complex words. They will then be asked to recall that list after an elapsed period of time. The extent to which the individual is able to remember and state the words in the correctly listed order can help determine whether signs of cognitive failure or memory impairment are present.

How Do I Administer the Five-Word Memory Test?

  1. Select five random English words. These words should range in difficulty from easy to hard, with the difficulty increasing along with the order.
  2. Allow for a period of time to elapse. This period of time can vary. Five minutes is usually a good starting point, but this can be adjusted depending on the individual. What’s important is that enough time has passed to allow the brain an opportunity to test its recall, without too much time that the results could be skewed based on reasonable forgetfulness.
  3. Have the individual repeat back the words. The words should be recalled in the same order in which they were given. The results of the test consist of a percentage score. This is calculated as the number of correctly ordered words divided by five. A score of 100% demonstrates that all five words were correctly memorized. Correctly recalling three or more words is considered to be within a normal range, whereas only remembering one or two words could be cause for concern.

What Are the Benefits of Early Detection?

Having tests that can potentially help diagnose dementia in its early stages is crucial for several reasons:

  • Accuracy for diagnosis and treatment. With earlier detection of signs of dementia, healthcare professionals can better understand the underlying causes and, therefore, recommend proper treatment accordingly. Early intervention can more effectively manage symptoms and help the individual make necessary adjustments and living modifications ahead of time. Doing so can potentially lessen or delay many symptoms.
  • Access to resources and better planning. Early detection allows individuals and their families more time to educate themselves on the condition and seek out appropriate resources. Those who are more knowledgeable about the subject will have a stronger ability to cope and plan for the future. Early diagnosis allows the individual to better participate in the planning process regarding arrangements and future care before they are mentally unable to do so.
  • Participation in trials and research. Those who have detected signs of dementia early on can better participate in clinical research and treatment trials. These studies can lead to new treatments, improved diagnostics, and an enhanced understanding of the underlying conditions of the disease. By participating, individuals can aid in the advancement of treatment and care and potentially receive cutting-edge intervention themselves.


Q: What Is the 5-Word Cognitive Test?

A: The 5-word cognitive test is one of many types of screenings that are used to determine whether a person is showing signs of cognitive decline. While cognitive screenings aren’t specifically used to diagnose dementia or Alzheimer’s, the ability to get a reliable and effective assessment without the need for specialized medical equipment can have a profound impact on catching early signs. By utilizing just five words, doctors can test a patient’s recall and cognition and potentially detect Alzheimer’s early.

Q: What Is the 5-Word Memory Test for Seniors?

A: The 5-word memory test for seniors is a verbal test developed and used to check for signs of memory loss. Often administered by a healthcare professional, the individual will be provided with five common words, and then they will be asked to recall them after an elapsed time. The patient’s ease or difficulty in remembering the full list can be a helpful evaluation in determining early signs of dementia and Alzheimer’s. This test can be administered anytime and anywhere.

Q: What Is the 5-Minute Recall Test?

A: In just five minutes, a cognitive recall test can be administered to a patient to test for several various signs of decline in cognitive functions. The cognitive functions tested include:

  • Episodic memory
  • Language fluency
  • Time orientation
  • Visuospatial function
  • Executive function

The 5-minute recall test has been proven to be an efficient way of differentiating between normal cognition and cognitive impairment. The ability to quickly and conveniently evaluate and screen seniors for potential signs of Alzheimer’s is invaluable.

Q: What Questions Are Asked on a Memory Test?

A: The questions asked on a memory test cover a range of simple to complex tasks. A patient could be asked to remember a short list of words or objects to repeat back after an allotted time. They could also be asked basic math questions, such as counting down from 100 by intervals of a given number. They may also be asked to do more complex tasks, such as drawing a clock.

Contact Rocky Mountain Assisted Living

When simple forgetfulness starts to reveal itself as something more, talk to your healthcare professional about conducting these cognitive tests. If you already know that your loved one has early stages of dementia or Alzheimer’s, begin the planning process for long-term care. Our memory care services offer care that is designed to help seniors cope with challenges experienced with these conditions. Contact us today to find out more.