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Posted May 15, 2009

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How to Stop Dad's 'Growling'

Q.  My 96-year-old father-in-law lives in our home (for six years now) He is ambulatory with a walker, can dress himself and is able to engage in conversation. He is forgetful, but has not been diagnosed as having dementia or Alzheimer’s. His preference for daily activity is to watch TV most of his waking hours. He uses headphones, as the volume needs to be much higher than the rest of the family can tolerate. My question is this: Beginning recently, he "growls" almost continually and increasingly as time goes on. He claims he doesn't realize he is doing it. Is this a need for sensory feedback or something else? Do you have suggestions as to how we can remediate this? Do we need to seek medical attention for it? I have searched elderly behavior sites and not found it mentioned. Please advise. Thank you! 

Brenda G., Cary, North Carolina.

A.  He most likely does not hear himself. I would only recommend seeking medical attention if it is interfering with his life or the family's functioning. You might again try making him aware of the growling when he does it and see if this continued feedback helps. Perhaps engaging him in distracting activities or conversation may also help. 

 This answer is provided by Dr. Vivian Argento, a trained geriatrician and member of the geriatric medical team at Bridgeport Hospital in Bridgeport, Connecticut.  Dr. Argento is an expert in memory and medical problems affecting the elderly and serves as a clinical instructor at the Yale School of Medicine at Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut. She’s also a consultant both in and out of hospitals and cares for patients in various locations, including nursing homes, assisted living facilities, and in their homes via a house calls program. Dr. Argento can be reached at

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