The challenge of caregiving isn’t always the big things; it’s the little things that can push you over the edge.

It is understandable why a loved one’s humming behavior, while seemingly a little thing, is annoying.

If your loved one is behaving this way, it 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 them or a behavior “covering up” their failing vocabulary.

Persons with dementia often do have compulsive or recurring behavior. A loved one’s humming may be a similar symptom.

Sometimes with these issues, it may help to ask, “What won’t work?”

In most cases it won’t work to snap at your loved one, criticize, or ask him or her to stop. It won’t help to lose your temper.

Here are some ideas that might help:

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

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

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