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Problem-Solving, Step 3: Evaluate, Prioritize, and Choose

Part 5 in my series on problem-solving

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Step 3 – Evaluate, Prioritize, and Choose

In step one, you identified the problem, looked at it from different perspectives and expanded it to include all possible contributing factors.

In step two, you listed potential solutions. As you brainstormed and generated possibilities, fresh ideas were added to your list without preliminary judgment or comparisons.

Now, in step three, it is time to evaluate, prioritize and choose.

Which solutions are relevant and helpful? Which might point to another possibility you hadn’t thought of yet?

Let’s continue to work on the problem we chose earlier – problem #1. Here it is.

You are the primary caregiver for an aging parent. This may include taking them to doctor’s appointments, shopping, or visiting them at a care facility, etc. As your parent ages, you are becoming overwhelmed with both the care and decision-making. You want to do what is best for your parent.

Some potential solutions we came up with:

  • What caregiving can be shared with others in the family?
  • What social services are available that might assist me?
  • Are there adult day care centers? How safe are they?
  • Are there family members who could periodically visit their parent?
  • How can I let my aging parent know that I still love and care for them and am not deserting them if they need to go into a care facility?
  • Encourage grandchildren to become a part of their grandparent’s life.

Let’s evaluate each option and make a choice.

There may be some potential solutions that can be lumped together. For example, you may want to start with family, their availability and potential help, as well as their input. From there you may want to look at the resources that are available and what the costs would be.

As you review the list, are there others that you hadn’t thought of? If not, go over the potential solutions, prioritize and number them in order of their importance.


Here’s an approach I might take to this problem:

First, I would is gather as much information as possible.

  • What is the prognosis for the aging of my parent, as seen by their physician?
  • What services are available to assist in caregiving? That includes in-home daycare as well as facility daycare, part-time or full-time. What are the costs?
  • What social services are available in my area? What are the costs per visit, monthly fee, etc. If I hired them three times a week would I get a reduction?

Next, I would ask people I know about the reliability of their services. Who has used them and what was their appraisal?

I talked with two friends who were dealing with this problem but who lived in different areas of my state and had used the social services available to them. One was very pleased with the care that was available – another said she had to constantly be on top of things to be sure they were doing an adequate job.

Next, I would reach out to family members who lived nearby and give them an update on the health of our parent and the options for care.

  • Could any of them be available to help and how often?
  • If finances were a major problem, perhaps family members who lived farther away would be willing to contribute some financial help.

Whenever working with family members, respect where they are as you share your concerns. Make a decision beforehand not to blame or create resentment.

After I had a consensus of some kind, and if I remained in charge, I would need to decide which services I would begin with – perhaps home care every day or several times a week as needed.

  • Can my parent remain in their home or would it be more practical to have them move closer to me or set up a large spare room in my house as their new residence?
  • If decline of mental capacity becomes more apparent, looking at in-person facilities would be an important step.

What additional information is needed to move forward?

Have a discussion with your parent(s). You want them to know your concern is both for their safety and well-being. Share your concerns about safety and some of the ways you can make them safer while still being independent.

Help them to know the viable options before proceeding further. If a care facility is needed, let them know you are not deserting them, but that you care for them. Immediately removing them from their home can be very traumatic.

As you gather additional information, you will be able to better assess what you can afford and where specifically you need help. Then you can evaluate each step towards more full-time care and choose an option and go with it.

Give yourself permission to think outside the box.

Take your choices and look at them in different ways. Allow yourself to formulate a fresh perspective of the problem and potential solutions. Give yourself time to properly evaluate the options you have.

Play devil’s advocate. See your position from alternative points of view.

  • How do other members of the family see the problem and how we proceed with solutions?
  • How do you express precisely what you want and why, and then listen thoughtfully to others point of view?
  • What outcome is wanted by all involved?
  • You may have considered a plan that works, but this is a family problem. How do they feel about it?
  • What objections do they have, and can they be worked out?
  • How can everybody offer something without being hurt or left out and still get the results needed for your aging parent?

Here is the time for good listening skills and mediation.

Before initiating a plan of action, visualize how each of the possibilities may work out.

There are some problems for which good solutions are not easy to find. But with a desire to seek the best for all involved, you will be able to find solutions.

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