Mild Cognitive Impairment Symptom: Confusion When Traveling

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Note: Whether a glitch is normal or indicates a problem depends on many factors best evaluated by a professional, such as a geriatric psychiatrist or neuropsychologist. It's important to realize that changes in cognition and memory tend to fall along a spectrum. This symptom is considered a sign of concern that warrants an evaluation if it happens consistently or begins to interfere with daily life, especially if this is a change (new or different).

Why it happens

New experiences demand more of us cognitively, and travel tends to thrust people into unfamiliar places, doing nonroutine activities, at a rushed pace.

What you can do

  • Allow extra time in travels. A solo traveler may benefit from a bigger time cushion during check-in and layovers, for example.

  • Take more of a lead when traveling together, especially if you're customarily the "follower." Done subtly, guidance can be a relief to someone struggling with cognitive problems.

  • Always bring a print copy of itineraries and other key travel documents.

  • Gently orient your travel companion periodically about time changes, delayed flights, or wake-up calls; don't assume time-related matters will be remembered.

  • Take advantage of airline plans to provide updates via text message or a cell phone call.

  • Consider revisiting familiar places on vacations rather than always going somewhere new.

Paula Spencer Scott

Paula Spencer Scott is the author of Surviving Alzheimer's: Practical Tips and Soul-Saving Wisdom for Caregivers and much of the Alzheimer's and caregiving content on Caring. See full bio