Understanding the 5 Word Memory Test

senior care

Speak to a local care advisor at Assisted Living Locators by calling (888)-267-4741.
Learn about Assisted Living, Senior Living, Memory Care, and In-home care options.


The 5 Word Memory Test is an essential tool in the medical field, particularly when it comes to assessing cognitive health, especially for seniors. This test plays an instrumental role in the early detection of Alzheimer’s disease or other forms of dementia. This article will delve into the specifics of this test, its role in diagnosing dementia, early signs of cognitive decline, and more.

1. The Purpose of the 5 Word Memory Test

The 5 Word Memory Test is a verbal examination intended to evaluate memory efficiency in seniors. A healthcare professional administers this test by asking the participant to memorize a list of five common words. After a certain period, the individual is then asked to recall these words. Difficulty in remembering these words might suggest the presence of cognitive decline.

Through this test, healthcare professionals can quickly evaluate the cognitive state of an individual, primarily focusing on their short-term memory and delayed recall abilities. It’s a rapid, efficient way to gauge the state of an individual’s cognitive health.

5 Word Memory Test Example

Words to Remember:

  1. Chair
  2. Apple
  3. River
  4. Green
  5. Clock
These words are commonly used and should be recognizable to most people, making them suitable for simple memory tests.

Instructions for the Test:

  1. Read the list of 5 words to the senior and ask them to repeat them back to you.
  2. Engage the senior in a brief distraction task for a couple of minutes. This can be a simple conversation, counting backward, or discussing a different topic.
  3. After the distraction, ask the senior to recall the five words you mentioned earlier.

It’s important to note that while tests like these can give a general sense of memory function, they are not diagnostic tools by themselves. If there are concerns about a senior’s memory or cognitive function, it’s essential to consult with a healthcare professional for a comprehensive evaluation.

2. The Diagnosis of Dementia

Diagnosing dementia involves a comprehensive approach. Physicians employ several tests and imaging methods, such as physical examinations, psychiatric evaluations, memory tests, laboratory testing, and brain imaging through CT scans or MRIs.

The challenge comes in distinguishing the type of dementia as the symptoms can be similar. Therefore, the process also involves eliminating other conditions that could mimic dementia symptoms, such as normal pressure hydrocephalus, Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, traumatic brain injury, and vitamin deficiencies.

3. Early Indicators of Cognitive Decline

Dementia affects people differently, but some common early symptoms suggest signs of cognitive decline. These may include memory loss, difficulty concentrating, confusion about time and place, severe mood changes, difficulty with familiar tasks, and struggling to find the right words in conversation. It’s crucial to consult a healthcare professional if you or a loved one begin to display any of these signs.

4. Memory Tests and Dementia

Apart from the 5 Word Memory Test, several other cognitive tests are used to assess dementia. The Mini-Mental Status Examination (MMSE) is one of the most common, evaluating skills such as reading, writing, orientation, and short-term memory. The clock test, a non-verbal screening tool, is also used to assess cognitive impairment.

5. The 5 Word Memory Test for Dementia

In the context of dementia, the 5 Word Memory Test is part of the MoCA (Montreal Cognitive Assessment). The person taking the test is read five words and asked to repeat them aloud. After a few other tasks of the MoCA have been completed, the person is asked to repeat the same five words again.

6. Types of Memory Tests

Memory tests can vary, such as the MMSE, which includes questions that measure one’s sense of date and time, location, ability to remember a short list of common objects, attention, and ability to perform basic math.

The WMT (Word Memory Test) is another test that involves learning a list of 20 semantically related word pairs, such as dog/cat, man/woman, pig/bacon, fish/fin.

7. Warning Signs of Dementia

The early signs and symptoms of dementia can range from memory loss that disrupts daily life to challenges in planning or solving problems, difficulty completing familiar tasks, confusion with time or place, and trouble understanding visual images and spatial relationships.

8. The Role of the NHS in Memory Testing

In the UK, the NHS (National Health Service) uses several different tests to assess cognitive abilities. A common one used by GPs is the General Practitioner Assessment of Cognition (GPCOG). The MMSE is also used extensively in memory clinics to measure response to medication and guide decisions.

9. Self-Administered Dementia Tests

There are also self-administered tests, such as the SAGE (Self-Administered Gerocognitive Examination) test that individuals can take in the privacy of their own homes. These results can then be used to determine whether additional work up and/or referral to a specialist is indicated.

10. The Importance of Memory Testing

Memory tests play an essential role in identifying cognitive impairment early. They are invaluable tools in the healthcare field, helping to detect and diagnose dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. The 5 Word Memory Test, in particular, is a quick, simple, and efficient way to evaluate cognitive health, making it a crucial component of dementia diagnosis.

In conclusion, the 5 Word Memory Test is a powerful tool that contributes significantly to the early detection and management of cognitive decline conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease and dementia. It is essential to remember that any signs of memory loss or cognitive decline should be taken seriously and checked by a healthcare professional.