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How can we get Dad to stop humming all the time?

June 14, 2013

My Dad hums all the time recently. It’s very annoying to us all. How do we get him to stop? Why is he doing it?

I recall a comment during a family support group where a wife said that the challenge of caregiving isn’t always the big things; it’s the little things that can “push you over the edge!”

I can understand why your dad’s humming behavior, while seemingly a little thing, is annoying.

Your dad’s behavior could have a number of causes. Alzheimer’s disease and the other dementias often impact words and language. This may be a simple form of communication for him or a behavior “covering up” his failing vocabulary.

I also find that persons with dementia often do have compulsive or recurring behavior. His humming may be a similar symptom.

Sometimes when I have these issues I ask myself, “What won’t work?”

Clearly in your dad’s case it won’t work to snap at him, criticize, or ask him to stop. It won’t help to lose your temper.

Here are some ideas that might help:

Substitute other music—Play some of his past favorite songs to see if he can verbalize or sing the lyrics, for example, “I left my heart…in San Francisco.” This might break the humming habit.

Engage him in a meaningful chore or task—Can he still sweep the floor, wipe off tables, fold laundry or towels? This might provide a distraction and break the habit.

Get him out of doors—Being outside on a nice day can provide sensory stimulation. Seeing flowers, a cat jump over the fence, humming birds or hearing the neighbor’s lawn mower might change the behavior.

Ask him to tell you more—Ask him about his music and why he is humming, “Dad, do you enjoy music—I hear you humming” “What are you favorite songs?” “Do you enjoy going to concerts?” Sometimes getting him to talk about the music breaks the repetitive cycle.

If his behavior doesn’t change, you will have to work on your own reactions. Try to keep your sense of humor or take a break from dad by encouraging attendance at a day center or finding an upbeat, well trained home worker.

Because AD is progressive, be aware that a behavior that bothers you today may be gone tomorrow.

This can be bittersweet. At some point in his journey he may lose the ability or interest in humming. You may actually find yourself missing this behavior that today is so bothersome.

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Thoughts and stories from others

  1. August 14, 2016 at 06:50 pm
    Posted by Scarlet

    Have you looked into verbal tourettes syndrome? Go see you pediatric Dr. Feeling like you can't stop must be painful.
  2. March 1, 2016 at 05:27 pm
    Posted by Marylee Raleigh

    My Dad, who never cared much about music, started to hum constantly as his disease progressed. It didn't irritate me, because I realized one day that he sounded like a little child comforting himself, and maybe he was.
  3. November 15, 2015 at 12:31 pm
    Posted by ELIZABETH Watt

    hi I am caring for my mother in law whom has dementia shes not in continent yet but sleeps for hours on end she eats on her own if its made for her she also hums constantly even when we are out shopping
  4. June 25, 2015 at 09:31 pm
    Posted by Abigail Smith

    Hi I am 11 years old. A month ago i started humming myself to sleep without noticing. A week later I went on a trip and I had to sleep with my sisters they kept hearing me hum and had to keep telling me to stop. Did for like 5 seconds. Ten we came back home and it got worse. Soon every second of the the day I am humming. It hurts and it's hard to stop! HELP!

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