Savvy Senior

By Jim Miller | June 27, 2023

  1. Best meal delivery services for seniors who don’t cook
  2. How to handle Social Security benefits when a loved one dies
  3. Tips and tools for coping with vision loss
  4. Elder mediation can help families navigate thorny caregiving issues
  5. The hidden danger of untreated heartburn

Best meal delivery services for seniors who don’t cook

Dear Savvy Senior,

Can you recommend some good healthy meal delivery options for seniors who don’t cook or get out much? My 80-year-old father, who lives alone, has a terrible diet and I worry about his health.

  • Concerned Daughter

Dear Concerned,

There are actually a wide variety healthy meal delivery options that can help non-cooking seniors who live at home. Here are several top options to check into.

Community-Based Programs

A good place to start, is to find out if there’s a senior home delivery meal program in your dad’s area. Meals on Wheels is the largest program that most people are familiar with, but many communities offer senior meal delivery programs sponsored by other organizations that go by different names.

To find services available in your dad’s area, visit, which offers a comprehensive directory on their website, or call the area aging agency near your dad. Call the Eldercare Locator at 800-677-1116 to get the local number.

Most home delivered meal programs across the U.S. deliver hot meals daily or several times a week, usually around the lunch hour, to seniors over age 60 who have problems preparing meals for themselves, as well as those with disabilities. Weekend meals, usually frozen, may also be available, along with special diets (diabetic, low-sodium, kosher, etc.).

Most of these programs typically charge a small fee (usually between $2 and $9 per meal) or request a donation, while some may be free to low-income seniors who qualify for Medicaid. There are also some Medicare Advantage plans that cover limited meal service benefits.

Meal Delivery Service Companies

Another great option for your dad is to order him some pre-made meals online from a meal delivery service company. These companies provide a wide variety of tasty meal choices and will usually post the nutrition information for their meals right on their website.

Most companies will also cater to a host of dietary and medical needs, such as low-sodium and low-carb meals, diabetic meals, gluten-free, dairy-free, and vegetarian options. Plus, the ordering process is very easy.

Depending on the company you choose, the food arrives either fresh or frozen and most deliver all across the U.S. Prices generally start at around $8 to $13 per meal, plus shipping, however many companies provide discounts or free shipping when you order meals in bulk. And most companies work with Medicaid and some Medicare Advantage plans to help reduce costs.

Some of the best meal delivery companies for older adults, as rated by Verywell Health for 2023 include:

  • Best Variety: Magic Kitchen (
  • Best Value: Mom’s Meals (
  • Best for Nutrition Consultation: BistroMD (
  • Best Plant-Based Meals: Mosaic (
  • Best Gluten-Free: ModifyHealth (
  • Best Chef-Prepared: CookUnity (
  • Best for Customization: Snap Kitchen (

For more information on this list and their testing methodology, visit and search “Best Meal Delivery Services for Seniors.”

Grocery Stores and Restaurants

Depending on where your dad lives, he may also be able to get home delivered meals from local grocery stores or restaurants. Some grocery stores offer a selection of pre-cooked meals and foods, including roasted chicken, mashed potatoes, and fresh soups and salads. Contact the grocery stores in your dad’s area to inquire about this option. Or check with some of his favorite restaurants to see if they offer home delivery, or he could use a restaurant delivery service like, or

How to handle Social Security benefits when a loved one dies

Dear Savvy Senior,

How are Social Security benefits handled when someone dies? After a long illness, my 68-year-old father has only weeks left to live. I am helping my mom figure out her financial situation going forward, including what to do about my dad’s Social Security after he passes away but could use some help.

  • Only Son

Dear Only,

I’m very sorry about the impending loss of your father. To help you and your mom understand what Social Security provides and what needs to be done when a family member dies, here are some key points you should know.

Your first order of business will be to make sure the Social Security Administration is notified when your father dies, so his monthly benefits will be stopped. In most cases, the funeral home providing his burial or cremation services will do it. You’ll need to provide your dad’s Social Security number to the funeral director so they can make the report. But, if they don’t offer that service or you’re not using a funeral home, you’ll need to do it yourself by calling Social Security at 800-772-1213.

When Benefits Stop

There are a couple of things to be aware of regarding your dad’s Social Security benefits. For starters, you need to know that a person is due no Social Security benefits in the month of their death.

With Social Security, each payment received represents the previous month’s benefits. So, if your dad were to pass away in August, the check for that month – which would be paid in September – would need to be returned if received. If the payment is made by direct deposit, you would need to contact the bank or other financial institution and ask them to return any benefits sent after your dad’s death.

Survivor Benefits

When your father passes away, your mother may be eligible for survivor benefits on his record if she’s at least age 60 (50 if disabled). Here’s how that works depending on her situation.

If your mom is currently receiving Social Security benefits based on your father’s work record, her spousal benefit will automatically convert to survivors benefits when the government gets notice of your dad’s death. She cannot receive both spousal and survivor benefits at the same time.

Widows are due between 71 percent (at age 60) and 100 percent (at full retirement age) of what the husband was getting before he died.

If, however, your mom is eligible for retirement benefits (but hasn’t applied yet), she can apply for retirement or survivors benefits when her husband passes away and switch to the other (higher) benefit later. Or, if your mom is already receiving her retirement benefits on her own work record, she could switch to survivors benefits if it offers a higher payment. She cannot, however, receive both benefits.

To apply for survivors’ benefits, your mom will need to call Social Security at 800-772-1213 and schedule an appointment. She can’t do it online.

You should also know that survivor benefits are available to former spouses and dependents who meet SSA qualifications – see

Also note that if your mom collects a survivor benefit while working, and she’s under full retirement age, her benefits may be reduced depending on her earnings. See for details.

Death Benefit

In addition to survivor benefits, Social Security will also pay a one-time payment of $255 to your mom (the surviving spouse) if she was living with your dad at the time of his death. If they were living apart, she may still receive this one-time payment if she’s collecting spousal benefits on his work record. In the absence of a surviving spouse, the lump-sum payment can go to a son or daughter who is eligible for benefits on the deceased’s work record.

Tips and tools for coping with vision loss

Dear Savvy Senior,

Can you recommend some good resources for seniors with vision loss? My husband was recently diagnosed with macular degeneration, which has deteriorated his central vision, and he’s become very discouraged.

  • Worried Wife

Dear Worried,

I’m very sorry to hear about your husband’s eye condition. Unfortunately, there are about 20 million Americans living with macular degeneration today. Over time, this progressive disease can rob people of their central vision, making everyday tasks like driving a car, reading a magazine or watching television extremely challenging. Here are some tips and resources that can help.

Low Vision Help

If your husband hasn’t already done so, he needs to see a low-vision specialist for a comprehensive examination. Low-vision specialists are ophthalmologist or optometrist with additional credentials or specialization in low vision testing, diagnosis, and treatment.

A low vision exam, which is much different from a typical eye exam, will explore how your husband’s eye condition is affecting his day-to-day life, how he’s adapting emotionally and prescribe solutions to help him regain as much day-to-day functioning as possible.

Your next step is to get your husband to a nearby vision rehabilitation service. These services, which are run by state or nonprofit organizations, or private eye care clinics, help people with all types of uncorrectable vision impairments. Most state and nonprofit services are free or low-cost, while private clinics typically charge a fee or may accept Medicare.

While vision rehabilitation does not restore lost sight, it does help people maximize their existing sight, or, if they have no vision, it can equip them with techniques and tools to help them maintain an independent lifestyle.

Services include counseling, along with training on how to perform daily living tasks with low vision, and how to use visual and adaptive devices and assistive technologies that can help improve quality of life.

They also offer guidance for adapting your home that will make it safer and easier for your husband to maneuver and can help him locate low-vision support groups. Some agencies will even send their specialist out to work with him in the comfort of your own home.

To find a vision rehabilitation service near you ask your husband’s eye doctor for a referral, or you can locate services yourself by calling the American Printing House (APH) Connect Center at 800-232-5463.

Online Tools

Another convenient place to get help for your husband is online at VisionAware ( This free website that’s part of the APH Connect Center is specifically designed for older adults new to vision loss.

It provides information on eye diseases and disorders, along with dozens of practical tips, information and instructional videos on living with vision loss. These include concepts for adapting your home to make it easier to navigate, techniques for traveling safely outside the home, and various tips on how to manage things like finances, medications, and other tasks such as cooking, cleaning, grooming, reading, writing, doing hobbies and more.

VisionAware also provides a comprehensive list of more than 2,000 low vision agencies and organizations across the country that’s searchable by state or category.

Another terrific low vision resource that’s available to your husband is Hadley (, which is a nonprofit organization and partner of the National Eye Institute and the National Eye Health Education Program.

Hadley offers online discussion groups, audio podcasts and dozens of free online workshop videos to help empower the blind and visually impaired. With Hadley, your husband will learn new ways to do things that have become more difficult due to his vision loss and connect him with a network of peers who understand what he’s going through.

Elder mediation can help families navigate thorny caregiving issues

Dear Savvy Senior,

Are there any services that you recommend that can help families resolve elder parent caregiving conflicts? My 86-year-old father was recently diagnosed with early-stage Alzheimer’s disease, and to make matters worse, my sister and brother and I have been perpetually arguing about how to handle his future caregiving and financial needs.

— Conflicted Siblings

Dear Conflicted,

It’s not unusual when adult children disagree with each other regarding the care of an elder parent. If you and your siblings are willing, a good possible solution is to hire an “eldercare mediator” who can help you work through your disagreements peacefully. Here’s how it works.

Elder Mediation

While mediators have been used for years to help divorcing couples sort out legal and financial disagreements and avoid court battles, eldercare mediation is a relatively new and specialized service designed to help families resolve disputes that are related to aging parents or other elderly relatives.

Family disagreements over an ill or elderly parent’s caregiving needs, medical care, living arrangements, driving issues, legal and financial decisions are just some of the many issues that an elder care mediator can help with. But don’t confuse this with family or group therapy. Mediation is only about decision-making, not feelings and emotions.

The job of an elder mediator is to step in as a neutral third party to help ease family tensions, listen to everyone’s concerns, hash out disagreements and misunderstandings, and help your family make decisions that are acceptable to everyone.

Good mediators can also assist your family in identifying experts such as estate-planners, geriatric care managers, or health care or financial professionals who can supply important information for family decision making.

Your family also needs to know that the mediation process is completely confidential and can take anywhere from a few hours to several meetings depending on the complexity of your issues. And if some family members live far away, a conference or video call can be used to bring everyone together.

If you’re interested in hiring a private eldercare mediator, you can expect to pay anywhere from $100 to more than $500 per hour depending on where you live and who you choose. Or, if available in your area, you may be able to get help through a community-based nonprofit program that offers free or low-cost services by volunteer mediators.

Finding a Mediator

To locate an elder mediator in your area, start by asking for referrals from health professionals or hospital social workers or search online at The Academy of Professional Family Mediators website ( or Both sites have searchable directories.

Or, to search for free/low-cost community-based mediation programs in your state, see the National Association for Community Mediation website ( Unfortunately, not all states offer them.

There is currently no universally accepted credential or professional standard for eldercare mediators, so make sure the person you choose has extensive experience with elder issues that are similar to what your family is dealing with. Also, be sure you ask for references and check them. Most elder mediators are attorneys, social workers, counselors or other professionals who are trained in mediation and conflict resolution.

The hidden danger of untreated heartburn

Dear Savvy Senior,

Is regular heartburn or acid reflux anything to worry about? I eat a lot of Rolaids throughout the day to help manage it, but it’s gotten worse with age and it keeps me up at night too. What can you tell me?

— Belching Bob

Dear Bob,

Almost everyone experiences heartburn or acid reflux from time to time, but frequent episodes can signal a much more serious problem. It’s estimated that more than 60 million Americans experience heartburn at least once a month, with around 15 million people who suffer from it daily.

Heartburn symptoms show up in a variety of ways – as a burning pain behind the breastbone, indigestion, or a sour or burning taste in the back of the throat. Other symptoms may include chest pain, excessing belching, a long-term cough, sore throat or hoarseness.

If you’re plagued by heartburn two or more times a week, and it’s not responding well to over-the-counter antacids you need to see your doctor, who may refer you to a gastroenterologist. Frequent bouts may mean you have gastroesophageal reflux disease, or GERDs, which can severely irritate and damage the lining of your esophagus, putting you at risk of Barrett’s esophagus and esophageal cancer if it’s not treated.

Lifestyle Adjustments

Depending on the frequency and severity of your heartburn, there are a number of lifestyle adjustments you can make that can help provide relief and avoid a more serious problem down the road, such as:

  • Avoid trigger foods: Some foods can trigger heartburn symptoms like citrus fruits, tomatoes, fatty foods, chocolate, garlic, onions, spicy foods, mints, alcohol, coffee and sodas. You should keep a food diary to track which foods cause you the most problems and avoid them.
  • Eat smaller, slower and earlier: Smaller portions at mealtime and eating slower can help reduce heartburn symptoms. You should also wait at least three hours after eating before lying down or going to bed.
  • Lose weight: Having excess weight around the midsection puts pressure on the abdomen, pushing up the stomach and causing acid to back up into the esophagus.
  • Quit smoking: Smoking can increase stomach acid and weaken the valve that prevents acid from entering the esophagus.
  • Sleep elevated: To help keep the acid down while sleeping, get a wedge-shaped pillow to prop yourself up a few inches. If that’s not enough, try elevating the head of your bed six to eight inches by placing blocks under the bedposts or insert a wedge between your mattress and box spring. Wedges are available at drugstores and medical supply stores. Sleeping on the left side may also help keep the acid down.

Treatment Options

If the lifestyle adjustments don’t solve the problem, or if antacids (Tums, Rolaids, Maalox, Mylanta or Alka-Seltzer) aren’t doing the trick, there are a variety of over the counter (OTC) and prescription medications that can help, including:

H-2 Blockers: Available as both OTC and prescription strength, these drugs (Pepcid, Tagamet, Axid and Zantac) reduce how much acid your stomach makes but may not be strong enough for serious symptoms.

Proton-Pump Inhibitors (PPI): If you have frequent and severe heartburn symptoms PPIs are long-acting prescription medications that block acid production and allow time for damaged esophageal tissue to heal. They include Nexium, Prevacid, Prilosec, Zegerid, Protonix, Aciphex and Dexilant. Prevacid, Nexium, Prilosec and Zegerid are also available OTC. But be aware that long-term use of PPIs can increase your risk for osteoporosis and chronic kidney disease.

If the medications aren’t enough, there are also surgical procedures that can tighten or strengthen the lower esophageal sphincter so gastric fluids can’t wash back up into the esophagus.

Send your senior questions to: Savvy Senior, P.O. Box 5443, Norman, OK 73070, or visit Jim Miller is a contributor to the NBC Today show and author of “The Savvy Senior” book.