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Difficult situation at work

(118 Posts)
Applejack5 Thu 11-Apr-19 22:20:30

I think maybe IABU to moan about this, but it is getting quite stressful and I'm not sure what I can do.

I have a colleague in my department who does a different role to me, but I cover her work when she's on leave and fully know her role. We are in office based roles. She has always been a little scatty or forgotten the odd random thing over the past couple of years, but in the past 6 months or so she has become increasingly confused and forgetful to the point where she is consistently asking me for help with everyday tasks which I know she could've easily handled before. I am having to explain things all the time and she repeats herself a lot. She also has difficulty understanding new tasks assigned to her and has noticeably made a lot of mistakes in her work.

I suspect some kind of early onset dementia (in her 50s) but I'm no doctor!

I have discretely discussed this with our manager because I am worried about her as well as the impact on the company and on my own work through supporting her. Our manager said he had started to notice there was a problem and others had also mentioned this to him, but he didn't realise quite how serious it was. I realised that I'd probably been masking the issue a bit by helping my colleague out so much. I felt a bit like a tell-tale for going and moaning about this to our manager but it can't carry on forever and my colleague clearly needs some help.

So our manager encouraged her to see a doctor and she did, but this has been inconclusive and nothing has changed. She knows there's a problem with being forgetful but seems to think she's getting better (or at least says she feels that she is).

It has gotten to the point where I think that I could almost just do her job on top of mine more easily than I can keep helping her to do her job, which is very frustrating and time consuming. I also feels a bit unfair for me to have to keep supporting her like this as it's not my responsibility. Our manager says to let him know if he can do anything but when she is asking me how to do things or whether something she is writing makes sense I can't just tell her to go to our manager instead.

Ultimately, she can't perform her role in her current mental state and I have no idea how she would get anything done if I wasn't there to support her. I feel so sorry for her sad

Anyone with experience of anything like this? AIBU to try to push our manager to take some action?

JamPasty Thu 11-Apr-19 22:23:54

Why can't you not ask her to go to your manager when she has questions? Sounds like he's trying to avoid having to actually manage this situation

screamifyouwant Thu 11-Apr-19 22:34:13

This is difficult I once worked with someone who was quite forgetful she was in her mid to late 60s though . She would even forgot conversations . She wouldn't admit she's forgotten she would flatly refuse that had been said . I think it was because she didn't want to admit that as you get older your memory is not at the best .
In this case this lady is not old , I find it odd that the tests are inconclusive if she's as bad as you make out . Is it possible she just has a bad memory skatty ? There are things she can do that will help such as writing things down etc . But yes if your struggling with your job and her just say that she needs to ask her manager for help , but I do think you need to help her a little .

BrokenWing Thu 11-Apr-19 22:45:49

My 50+ colleague has become forgetful, anxious around change and constantly repeats herself 2-3 times before finishing a sentence. She suffers from regular insomnia and room swinging dizzy spells. After a few drs and MRI she had been told it is likely to be related to the menopause. We have a laugh about it and I help her out when I can.

If/when you can help her without impacting your work significantly do. If not just tell her sorry and it is up to her and your manager to sort out.

Jamiefraserskilt Thu 11-Apr-19 22:51:43

Sounds like the menopause.

LordWheresMyShoes Thu 11-Apr-19 22:55:24

Can you take a week or two off soon, let manager see how bad it is?

PinkiOcelot Thu 11-Apr-19 22:56:12

Not a solution really, but could you get her to write things down rather than keep asking?x

Applejack5 Thu 11-Apr-19 22:57:19

Often it's little things like she's forgotten how to search her emails, or how to save a file in the right place. I can't just say go ask our manager things like that every time as that would be quite unsupportive and generally mean.

I've tried suggesting going to our manager for more significant tasks but she often forgets she was going to and ends up talking about the same task to me all over again. Also there are some things that our manager just wouldn't know how to do as it's daily bits and pieces that the management don't usually need to concern themselves with.

She says the doctor thought it might be depression but has also said various things about follow up appointments which don't add up. I have known people with depression and never seen this level of confusion or forgetfulness in them, but then everyone is different I suppose?

Saz41 Thu 11-Apr-19 22:57:48

Im like that, and in my case, its the menopause.

Applejack5 Thu 11-Apr-19 22:59:11

The menopause can cause this level of confusion?!

Fatted Thu 11-Apr-19 23:01:36

Have you discussed it with your colleague at all? You really need to be discussing it with her. Tell her you can't keep carrying her and hiding the problem. You have to be cruel to be kind. She obviously needs help and support and ultimately you're stopping her from getting that. I'd have a talk with her, explain you can't help her anymore and insist she does ask your manager for help instead of you. Then your manager will be able to see just how much of an issue it is.

ThomasRichard Thu 11-Apr-19 23:03:56

I used to share an office with a woman like this. It turned out that she had a brain tumour, which eventually killed her sad I just thought she needed some more IT training.

mumsie8 Thu 11-Apr-19 23:05:18

I read an article where women of a similar age and with a similar degree of sudden forgetfulness/confusion stating they felt like they were in a fog, a brain fog, if you like and it was down to menopause. HRT apparently helped them massively. But i'm not a doc nor am i going through the menopause yet, but her symptoms sound not too dissimilar to theirs.

pickme Thu 11-Apr-19 23:05:36

Your managers job is to manage her don't let them make it your problem. Next you will have workplace stress trying to manage 2 jobs and making your own mistakes.
Manager should refer her to Occupational Health even if you don't have one they can refer to a company. Plenty of independents who would like the work.
Twice in my career I have been referred someone who clearly had some form of dementia both time it was so severe I was shocked that managers had let it slide so much. in one case the partner who I thought I was going to upset as I thought this must be sudden onset as referral said stress no mention of momory loss! admitted he had been taking his wife to work and placing in the workplace and leaving her and had done the same for the appointment. the woman had no idea where she was or what she was doing and why he though she might blag her way through the consultation I have no idea! as she couldn't even tell me the town she was in! When I asked how long he estimated she had been this bad he said over a year! and when I asked why he had allowed her to work when she was so confused he shrugged and said "well someone's got to work!" (He was not working) even more shocking was the job she did which I can't say but it was worryingly safety critical

MitziK Thu 11-Apr-19 23:06:18

Poor woman. Whether she is 'simply forgetful' due to menopause/depression or whether she's actually suffering symptoms of Alzheimers', it must be horrible to look at her emails or files and have no idea how to do something she has done easily for decades. And if she does have Alzheimers' but is being fobbed off by her GP with 'it's your hormones, dear' or 'have you considered taking these?' to be sedated by antidepressants, that's cruel.

YANBU to insist that your manager steps up. As employers, your work has a duty of care towards her. Ignoring her difficulties and hoping they'll go away or you'll take up the slack is unfair.

Perhaps you need to formalise your concerns for her wellbeing (don't make yourself sound put upon, focus on her health) to your manager or to HR.

I'd want somebody to do that for me if I were potentially very ill.

Applejack5 Thu 11-Apr-19 23:06:52

Hmm.. yes I probably should try to find an opportunity to discuss it with my colleague. I just don't want her to feel too bad about it all, especially if it is actually related to depression.

Also she already thinks that another colleague has got it in for her, due to a situation in which she made a mistake and couldn't fully understand it when questioned by this colleague... I don't want her to think that I have too! It's difficult.

chockaholic72 Thu 11-Apr-19 23:19:28

This happened to me. Senior PA and I have had to move jobs because I simply couldn't do mine any more. It's likely to be the menopause. I can't remember names of people I have worked with for years, have no recollection of being asked to do something, felt constantly overwhelmed, couldn't prioritise, and had panic attacks on the way to work or in the office loo. It's utterly terrifying and although I am now on HRT I have completely lost confidence in my abilities. It's completely changed me as a person - from a shit-hot administrator to somebody who doesn't know who she is any more.
Please be sympathetic - I wouldn't wish my past year on anybody.

TheInvestigator Thu 11-Apr-19 23:22:18

She knows it's an issue. She knows it's happening and had admitted it. You don't need to worry about finding a way to say things to her... She knows, so you can be blunt.
When she comes to ask you something you should just say "we've been over this and it's part of your job. If you're struggling, you need to tell management that you're struggling". Obviously say it in a nice tone.

Or, take some annual leave, ask to work from home, find a way to work in a different location and let them see what happens when she doesn't have you there.

Puzzledandpissedoff Thu 11-Apr-19 23:27:28

I've tried suggesting going to our manager for more significant tasks but she often forgets she was going to and ends up talking about the same task to me all over again

With respect, I think you're going to have to insist; at the moment you're just masking a problem which is the manager's job to deal with. Even if they have to refer to you because they don't know the process involved, at least it would flag the issue up

Maybe look at it from the angle that, by bringing this into the open, it will help towards her getting the support she needs?

FuriousVexation Thu 11-Apr-19 23:27:30

Hormones can absolutely send you daft.

I was put on Clomid while trying to (unsuccessfully) ttc and it basically sent me batshit. I could not figure out the simplest of workforce tasks that I would previously bang out 10 a minute. I sat there in tears because I couldn't understand why I couldn't understand.

I got sent home early and on the way I seriously considered driving my car across the other carriageway and into the canal.

Please be kind to your colleague if you can. It's not your responsiblity to pick up her work, but you can impress on your manager that she's not coping.

You can also speak to her. Offer support if you can, but not at your own expense.

2ofstedsin24weeksistakingthep Thu 11-Apr-19 23:31:48

I am not a doctor but my Dad had a form of dementia which started like this and was picked up by his colleagues at work quite early on. He went to the GP and was misdiagnosed with depression. He passed the initial GP tests and after repeated visits eventually got referred to the memory clinic. Unfortunately the very rare form of dementia he had meant there was nothing available to slow down the progression of his symptoms, but lots can be done with more common forms.

Please find the strength to talk to your colleague, she obviously feels comfortable to ask you for help, which must be difficult for her. Perhaps gently persuade her to get a second opinion and a referral to the memory clinic?

Skittlesandbeer Thu 11-Apr-19 23:32:40

I’d speak again to the manager. I’d ask him to tell her directly that questions about her job go directly to him, and that you were under orders to concentrate on your job only. Any requests made of you had to be noted (by you, list at your desk) for later review. Make it all look like performance management of you, if you like.

So you get to shrug sympathetically when she asks, but not stop your own work. And there’ll be a long list at the end of the week that shows all the things she can’t do, including the ones she forgets multiple times. That’ll speak for itself.

Of course manager should be taking the situation in hand more professionally, but sounds like that’s a pipe dream. Don’t you all have annual performance reviews that catch these situations? The kind with quantifiable set targets and colleague feedback? Seems strange.

HollowTalk Thu 11-Apr-19 23:33:14

I would be really worried about her and think anything you do should be from the standpoint.

Does she drive?

Does she live alone?

Do you/your boss know she actually saw her doctor? It's easy to say you've been if you don't need proof.

Could you take a day off and ask your boss to sit in for you so that they can see exactly what she's like?

Is she worse at any particular time of day? Does she deteriorate over the day?

clairemcnam Thu 11-Apr-19 23:34:12

I know from experience that people can pass dementia tests even though others can see that there are clear issues.

Mylifeisboring Thu 11-Apr-19 23:56:07

Sounds like the menopause to me. I have changed my job to a much less taxing one. Couldn’t handle changes, started to doubt my own ability, lost confidence, started panicking. Very confusing and scary. Whatever you do please be kind, it might happen to you too.

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