Misplaced the key again – is it just forgetfulness or already dementia? Tests can provide clues. Neurologist Dorothee Saur from the dementia consultation at the University Hospital Leipzig focuses on seven questions that you can also answer at home.

According to recent estimates, around 1.8 million people live with dementia in Germany. Most of them suffer from Alzheimer’s. The disease begins gradually, usually with memory and orientation problems.

Where did I park the car again? What was my daughter’s phone number again? Many people ask themselves – themselves or their relatives – when forgetfulness ends and dementia begins.

The German Alzheimer Society names the following warning signs of dementia:

However: The symptoms mentioned can also have other causes, such as stress, psychological stress, a change in the hormonal balance or another illness. Forgetfulness can also vary in severity.

However, a clear diagnosis is important. Although dementia is (still) incurable, early treatment can help slow down the process and stabilize mental performance. In addition to medication, non-drug treatment can also help (follow the links to information sheets).

One difficulty in diagnosis is that those affected usually do not notice the disease themselves, explains neurologist Dorothee Saur from the Leipzig University Hospital in an interview with “Bild”.

The doctor, who also leads the dementia consultation at Leipzig University Hospital, can use a mini test to detect the first signs of dementia. Seven questions must be answered.

Note: You will need paper and a pen. The test can only be carried out by two people.

1. Question: Remember the three terms lemon, hammer and blue.

2nd question: Subtract 7 from the number 100. So 100 minus 7, then subtract 7 from the result again. Repeat five times in total.

3. Question: What date is it today?

4. Question: Repeat the numbers 1609, 21,538 and 349,267.

5. Question: Repeat the following numbers backwards: 148, 2903, 32,517.

6. Question: Name the three terms from the beginning of the test.

7. Question: Finally comes the so-called clock test: A circle is drawn on a white sheet of paper. The test person should enter the numbers and a specific time with a large and small hand.


The repetition of the numbers only serves to fill the short memory and distract from the three concepts. If the three terms in question 6 cannot be reproduced, this could be an indication of a memory disorder and thus an initial indication of dementia.

If the clock was not drawn correctly, numbers like 12, 3, 6 and 9 are in the completely wrong place, this could also be an indication of a visual-spatial disorder. This is also a typical symptom of Alzheimer’s dementia.

Important: The mini test does not replace a medical diagnosis. If you suspect dementia, you should urgently consult your family doctor!

There is also a warning against misdiagnosis. Because whether a person does poorly can also have other reasons. Level of education, social class and psychological state also play a role. In addition, the “exam situation” puts some people under massive stress, which can also lead to poorer results. It is therefore important to get clarification from a doctor.

Age is considered the main risk for dementia. Saur says: “This can happen at early retirement age.” But the probability increases with age. “At the age of 100, you have a chance of suffering from senile dementia, i.e. Alzheimer’s, of around 50 percent.”

But every individual can do something to reduce their personal risk of dementia. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), a healthy, active and sociable life is the best way to prevent dementia. Our 12-point plan against dementia also provides guidance: