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.

14 thoughts on “How can we get Dad to stop humming all the time?

  • Shortie

    work on your own behavior… Dad wont be here long and after he’s gone.. you will wish you could hear him humm just once more…. my patient humms when he is happiest…he tells me he i s remembering good times with his wife.. she passed 20 yrs ago

  • Diane Engster

    I can tell you from personal experience that the humming may be calming to a person. It may serve the same purpose as chanting does in some religious practices.

    It also may be a way of expressing emotion when a person can’t find words to express how they feel.

    I would be careful about doing things which might make the person feel that it is unacceptable. I wonder whether the person might want to listen to certain kinds of music where he/she can hum along or also engage some another type of repetitive behavior which is calming.

    I would experiment with it.

  • Janet Thomas

    For two days my Mom hummed almost continuously and then passed away in her sleep two days later….

  • Gert Mercier

    We bought Mom an Ipod and put some old music on it for her.
    We were quite concerned she would not leave the headset on as she is very agitated but there was no problem with that issue.

    It did not quiet her down much but she seems to enjoy the soothing music.

  • Faye Whaley

    My dad had Alzheimer’s Disease & it crept in rather quietly until it was pretty obvious. We’d go to a restaurant with a buffet & he’d always allow my mom to order first, then he’d simply say, “I’ll have what she’s having”. It was sad to me because I knew that he could not remember what dishes were called what & it was a nice cover to just eat the same thing Mom ordered. Daddy loved to sing all his life. Often when he would get in a “got to go home” mood, he could sometimes be distracted if I started singing “Amazing Grace” or “How Great Thou Art”, etc.Sweet Memories.

  • Laurie

    Thank you for these posts my Dad had dementia and passed away earlier this year after deteriorating for over 10 yrs. although only really downhill this past year. Mom had it too and I have been full time caregiving for over a year now. The day annoyances and things that sometimes you think will drive you over the edge yourself must be put into perspective. “Tis but a season” and we must try to appreciate the moments while they are still with us. These posts help me to remember that. Sometimes when we are on the midst of it all it is difficult to see beyond.

  • Donna

    My mom hums too and it happens when her mind is not engaged. She doesn’t even realize she is doing it, but it gets very old.

    So find something to keep his mind busy. What does he like to do?

    My mom crochets and so I created projects that keep her crocheting and doing other things.

    So look at what your dad liked to do and find something to get him engaged. Watching television is the worst thing because their mind is not engaged.

  • Rosie

    My mom sings constantly not a song but lalalalalalalalalala…
    If she’s not doing that then it’s are you ready rose; come on rose lets go rose…when I ask her where she wants to go she says Church, when I tell her that we only go to Church on Sunday evenings she’s ok with that for a while and then it all starts again.
    PLEASE HELP!!!

  • Janice

    I have a humming problem with my mother who I took into my home in March. She couldn’t stay by herself anymore. She was diagnosed with Lewy Body dementia in July. This humming problem started about 3 weeks. It’s driving me nuts. Especially when I’m on a phone call. Then my mom increases the decibals so I have to put the person on hold ask her to please stop it. Then she looks at me with a puzzled expression like,oh, I didn’t know I was bothering you. Then I start thinking she’s doing this on purpose which is what two of my sons think. And if I’m watching a TV the same thing

  • Judy Cumbee

    I was my fathers caregiver I miss his humming sometimes I catch myself humming a tune.

  • 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!

  • 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

  • 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.

  • Scarlet

    Have you looked into verbal tourettes syndrome? Go see you pediatric Dr. Feeling like you can’t stop must be painful.

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