Preventing and Solving Problems

proactive-not-reactive image

The lives of family caregivers are full of challenges, difficulties and rewards. Some of us tend to draw a negative image when we consider the word “problem.” We may also consider problems as unmet needs or impediments to progress toward our goals. A standard dictionary definition of “problem” is a question raised for inquiry, consideration, or solution.

Potential Problems for Caregivers:

  • Lack of funds for needed care
  • Not enough people to help with care
  • Major behavior changes by the care receiver
  • Lack of cooperation by other caregivers
  • Lack of needed resources
  • Inability of primary family caregiver to continue with care
  • Inability of care receiver to understand the caregiver’s limitations

Approaches to Problem Solving: Reactive Vs. Proactive

We are able to anticipate some problems; others tend to sneak up on us. We can often prevent difficult situations from occurring or at least minimize their negative effects, by anticipating problems and taking early/prompt action to solve them. This is called proactive rather than reactive. Being reactive means waiting until some situation occurs and then responding to it. Being proactive means anticipating, planning and confronting problems before they reach crisis points (when you must act rapidly). Being proactive puts you in control of the situation.

There are 10 general guidelines to keep in mind as you approach problem-solving:

  1. Understand that problem situations are a normal part of life for all of us.
  2. Develop a self-perception that you are a problem solver. Keep telling yourself, “I am a problem solver.”
  3. Before attempting to solve a problem, make sure it involves a situation over which you have some control. Do not waste valuable time and energy on problems over which you have no control.
  4. Approach problem situations calmly, logically, and rationally; not impulsively, emotionally or passively.
  5. Approach problems systematically, tackling them one step at a time so they don’t become overwhelming. Bite off small pieces.
  6. Use your available support system to solve the problem. Available support systems may include family members, friends, co-workers, professional service providers, church members, and members of civic organizations. Don’t hesitate to ask others to help in problem-solving.
  7. Use good communication (an essential ingredient in problem solving). Share information openly and do not be afraid to ask questions.
  8. Keep in mind that in most situations, there is no one “correct” solution or course of action –just the best choice among available alternatives.
  9. Understand that successful problem-solving may not be easy. It often takes hard work and cooperation.
  10. Practice your problem-solving skills. They will improve dramatically with practice.