How old is... "too old to be working?"('lil lengthy)

  1. Some people just don't know when to quit or they just won't quit. The facility can't force you to retire, so then what? Do you just let someone work until they collapse on the unit or make a major mistake? Family members can't convince mom it's time to leave so do you just put up with her? I am now working on a new unit which I love, but it seems that my co worker should be a resident on this unit. No one wants to work with her. She is forgetful, very suspicious of management in that they are all out to get her. Our shift ends at 8am, but I hear she stays until noon sometimes checking and rechecking things she did or didn't do all night. Sometimes she does overtime four and five days in a row and then she's exhausted!...not good for an elderly person. She tells stories of how "before I leave, people will know how this place is really run!" She spends more time talking of how, and I quote, "It's an unregulated gang who flourish with the absence of authority." This one is a liar, that one in no good, She is an evil person, and THAT one needs to have her license taken away. I try to break away from her, but she seeks you out. I've worked with this person about five or six years ago and she was NEVER like this, always so sweet and kind. Other people who have worked with her have told me that once you get on her bad side watch out, she'll write you up for everything. Bad side? I asked. They replied, "If you don't agree with things she talks about, (ie) mismanagement, poor attitudes of others, she thinks you are like "them" and looks for ways to try and do you in." Well, thanks for the info, but now I have to deal with her. She repeats things over and over, she falls asleep during report and the other nurses tell her, "Wake up and pay attention!" There's a smoke alarm on the ceiling by the nurses station and she thinks it's some kind of recording device that records every word you say for management to hear. PaRaNoIa will destroy ya! I keep a little book of any incidents that I think need to be remembered... just in case. I jot down the date, time, incident and if any, those involved. One never knows when I may have to recall something. Take using the narcotics for instance. We only had 0.5mg tabs of Clonazapine and the resident needed 0.25mg. She asked me earlier if I would witness and sign that she wasted half a tablet. I walked into the med room which the door was wide opened and she had a 0.25mg tab laying on the counter sitting in the bubble pack, the narcotic box was wide opened, and she was no where to be seen and all at the change of shift. I closed the narc box couldn't lock it b/c she had the keys, then locked the med room door. I wasn't going to be a witness and sign that she wasted the other half of the Clonazapine if I didn't see it and where was the OTHER half of the tablet, and where was she? Here comes the day nurse on duty. I told her to count narcs with the other nurse b/c I have no idea what she's doing in there and explained the situation. My coworker said to me, "Why don't we go to the HN and see if we can schedule the same days off together." :stone I {{{cringed}}} at the thought but told her, "Well I like having every other weekend off."...I need four nights away from her...my two nights and her two. I feel sorry for her because anyone who's ever had an encounter with her and that's just about everyone including management is so nasty towards her. She's getting old for cripe's sake, but she doesn't need everyone treating her like dirt either. It's really time for her to retire with whatever dignity she has left, but she says, "I'm not going anywhere until my story is told." Good luck I say to her. I'm afraid that one night I'll go around the corner and find her sprawled flat out on the floor, or she becomes so senile that she doesn't know her name. Where does that leave me or anyone else that has to work with her? I mean if she does something wrong could we be held accountable? Management knows how she is, but I think they're only interested in coverage of the unit, doesn't matter if the staff can function or not! I think someone needs to put their foot down and either convince her or make her retire... who should that person be? Family? Management? When do we, the staff take a stand if we're allowed to take one at all or do we wait for her to make a major mistake at the cost of maybe someone's life? So I ask all of you, "How old is too old to be working?", and any ideas on how I'm supposed to deal with this situation?
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  2. 27 Comments

  3. by   ptnurse
    Bless your heart. I do so wish that I had some words of wisdom for you. I can tell that you have a lot of compassion for this individual, but you make a good point about her abilities. I guess talking things over with the nurse manager is about all you can do.
  4. by   mattsmom81
    Well, I don't agree this is automatically her 'age' that is the problem... she may have some medical problems that need addressing. Daytime sleepiness and behavior problems can be a sign of sleep disorders. Lack of REM sleep can cause bizarre behaviors. She may be depressed, having a med reaction, or any other host of problems. And of course you are correct: it MAY be early dementia (or mental illness) creeping in.

    I would speak to my manager in strictest confidence about this woman and share your concerns. Explain your hesitance in speaking to her directly. Perhaps the woman needs a 'concerned' talking to from the boss.

    If you honestly feel patient care is suffering and unit morale is effected by this woman you owe it to everyone to speak up, IMHO. Good luck and let us know how things go.

    As far as when should old nurses retire...well that can be tricky: Here's another one of my 'stories ' so bear with me.

    I worked in a small ICU with a 70-ish nurse who was not functioning at the same level as the rest of us...although she had been topnotch in years past. We 'carried' her for several years because she was alone in the world, had medical bills up the wazoo including CABG, and really needed to work for a few more years. We gave her the patients ready to transfer out and didn't stress her, basically. Now...maybe this was wrong...but we all were willing to do this for her out of loving concern. Not every youngish nurse will feel this way, I know, but in Leah's case I feel we did a good thing.

    We will all be 'old nurses' someday and hopefully there will be a little compassion out there left for us when we get there.
    Last edit by mattsmom81 on Nov 22, '02
  5. by   Dr. Kate
    Concur with the above. You might also talk with HR.
    Clearly, you have observed a change in this woman's behavior. Document it. Ultimately, patient safety is involved.
  6. by   BMS4
    I agree with Mattsmom on all points.

    I've seen older nurses who may not be as fast, but were still valuable to the unit and who did much better work than some of the younger nurses.

    Good luck and Big {{{Hugs}}} for you, Michelle. I hope that things get better for you and her.
    Last edit by BMS4 on Nov 22, '02
  7. by   SmilingBluEyes
    Ya know it may be an organic brain problem.....or some sort of disorder...but to further the stigmatizing of aging won't help. I have an aunt who has been a nurse 43 years and is sharper than ever. I think it has not nearly as much to do w/age as it does something else going on. If things are this bad, speak up to your manager. You don't want an unsafe nursing situation to go on.....obviously. But don't automatically atribute it to age and remember, we all will be there one day, if we live long enough! Good luck!
  8. by   -jt
    <I mean if she does something wrong could we be held accountable? >

    Yes --- but only if you were aware there was a problem (and you are) but you did nothing about it. The ANA's national Code of Nurse Ethics requires all nurses to speak up for the pts protection & your state board of nursing may have language about that as well. Both organizations can give you more info on handling this situation. You can call them anonymously. If you know there is something that is putting the pts in harms way & you dont speak up about it, you can be in violation of your license. So each time you have cause for concern, tell your supervisor & add that conversation to your log book. If you tell her in writing, keep a copy for yourself. Its then in the administrations hands. If they do nothing & it then all hits the fan, youll have proof that you acted appropriately & professionally & you cant be held responsible for the hospitals failure to seek a resolution to the problem.

    It may not be just old age or a need for retirement thats the problem. The RN needs help of some kind or another & its up to the hospital to investigate that & get her the help she needs, whatever it may be. Just firing an RN in need, to make the problem go away, is never the answer.
    Last edit by -jt on Nov 22, '02
  9. by   Roland
    have issues that justify her terminaton. However, I find your derogatory references to her age to be offensive. My doctor is seventy five and I wouldn't trade him for a dozen fresh young Harvard grads. MANY older people NEED to work just to earn an income that will facilitate a meager existence. Pehaps your perspective will change when YOU get older. More and more medicine is recognizing that senility is more of a manifestation of pathophysiology rather than age. For my money it is the YOUNG people by and large who pose the greatest threat to patients.
  10. by   night owl
    Thank you everyone for your feedback, I very much appreciate it. Hate to stigmatize SBE, but the woman is 70ish, beyond retirement age, even has the old osteoporosis hump in her back so she ain't no spring chicken PLUS I've realized that she does have some brain syndrome going on and does need to retire and get some help if she hasn't gotten it already. She is on medication because I've seen her pop a few pills one night, but felt it wasn't my place to ask about them. I'm wondering if she's staying just because she knows that management would love to see her go and is working four and five days in a row of OT just to prove her point even further. She's driving herself to the point of total exhaustion and will be carried out of there on a stretcher! Maybe that's what management wants. They can't say they forced her to do OT, she volunteered to do it so the facility can't be held accountable for that. So what do you do? HN already has spoke to her family about her awhile ago. Family tried to convince her to stop the nonsense and retire but to no avail....she's still here. I will speak to the HN anyway just to let her know how I feel. And -jt, thanks for that advice on having the facility investigate this problem and I keeping copies of my memos etc. If she's going to harm someone, I sure as h*ll am NOT going to be responsible for HER actions, it will be THEM.
  11. by   night owl
    Roland, Please don't beat me up for the "old" thing. I wasn't being derogatory with my remarks at all. If you see it as derogatory, that's your problem, not mine. So here we go with the debate of being old. H*ll, I'm getting old and I won't debate that. I care for this person a great deal and would not say anything derogatory about her. So until you know me and her, please don't even go there.
    This is why I hate posting anything about any problem that I may have because I always seem to get beat up about it in the long run. Please be supportive of this dilemma of mine. If you're going to storm me because I called her "Old" don't bother to reply because that's not what this is all about. That's why I asked the question, "How old is too old to work?" She surely isn't a spring chicken. She isn't a 90 y/o either, but her mind is starting to waste away to make her look senile and demented and that is a picture of an old person.
  12. by   Tookie
    I am glad you clarified her age Michele -

    l agree with mattsmom and the other posters that there could well be an organic process happening here and that is showing in her behavior and her change of personality =

    Night duty can also have an accumulative effect (speaking here as one who blames 14 and half years of nights for some of my problems that now 3 years later l am still struggling with)

    Keep your notes, take your concerns to the appropriate people and express your thoughts. I believe the concern that you are showing for a fellow worker is great - l am hoping that l can work for at least another 13 years or so - that will put me into the middle 60's (if l can) but it will be only on a part time basis - there is more to life than work

    Work is fantastic - love it - most of the time - but balance is what life is about Your friend does not sound balanced in both aspects of the word. Emotionally and in her life. I grant that this comment is only an observation -

    Maybe start promoting the joys of retirement, some other things to do with her life, that there is more to life than work

    Does she have some interests

    The other thought is she a religious person - would she listen to her minister etc - if they talked to her about putting people at risk. A counselor - just throwing some thoughts around here at the moment

    Good luck - it is hard when there is such a shortage of nurses - sometimes we can't see that the world will survive with out us.

    Good luck night owl.
    Tookie
  13. by   night owl
    I thank you Tookie, very much.
  14. by   RN2B2005
    My grandmother was registered in 1939 at age 17, and kept up on her C.E. and licencing requirements right up until her first cataract surgery, in 1997.
    She retired in 1979 only because she had worsening leg pain related to injuries sustained while serving as a flight nurse in WWII. She's still sharp as as the proverbial tack and serves on the local Red Cross board of directors and is a guest lecturer at the local University.

    So, I think your coworker's problems sound more like the result of the early stages of dementia or other organic brain disease--the smoke-detector-as-listening-device comment would be my first clue--rather than plain old age. We'll all be old nurses someday--I pray that God will give me the wisdom to retire with dignity--but it doesn't sound like a purely age-related thing. In the meantime, document, document, document, at least enough to CYA.

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