Does moaning make someone feel better?

A fellow caregiver asked...

When I ask if he is OK, he says yes. When I ask why is he moaning, he says it makes him feel better. It really upsets me because I think he is hurting or unwell.

Expert Answer

Brenda Avadian, brings knowledge, hope, and joy to family caregivers for loved ones with Alzheimer's and dementia. She cared for her father with Alzheimer's and helps families one-on-one and in groups. She is the author of eight books, including the pioneering memoir "Where's my shoes?" My Father's Walk through Alzheimer's and the Finding the JOY in Alzheimer's series. She presents vivid, compelling, and funny keynotes to both professional and family caregiving audiences.

It's hard to determine if someone moaning feels better; especially, without knowing anything more about your husband. So, I'll give you a real-life example with more details and you can decide if your situation is similar.

My late father who had Alzheimer's in his 80s used to hum at certain times. He repeatedly hummed the same few bars of a song I did not recognize.

After a while, I recorded when he hummed--what he was doing before and during. A pattern emerged. He hummed when he felt mildly flustered trying to do something or deal with someone. When he couldn't do something or when he couldn't express himself clearly enough for my husband or I to understand.

Other times, he'd hum (not as often, though) when he felt joyful...then he'd hum more bars of that song I did not know.

What I do know is, as our loved ones' brains decline in cognitive ability due to dementia, some are comforted by vocalizing. Whether this involves moaning or humming, the vocalizations serve a purpose--to hear one's own expression, to crowd out other thoughts or voices in one's mind, or to feel one's own company.

Again, it's hard to know why your husband moans without knowing more. So, keep asking him from time to time. And ask in different ways, just to be sure.