Assess Memory

To test memory, have the patient recall the recent and the remote past. Recent memory is easily tested by presenting three words to the patient and asking for them to be repeated 5 minutes later. For example, tell the patient, ''Repeat these words after me and remember them. I will ask for them later: necklace, thirty-two, barn.'' Continue with the mental status examination. Five minutes later, ask the patient, ''What were those words I asked you to remember?''

A simpler test of memory is to have the patient recall as many elements in a category as possible. Request that the patient do one of the following:

' 'Name as many flowers as you can.'' ''Name as many occupations as you can.'' ''Name as many tools as you can.''

An abnormality in recent memory may be related to a lesion in the temporal lobe. To test the remote past memory, ask the patient about well-known events in the past. Do not ask about events that you cannot verify.

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