Santa Claus comes to town at area long-term care facilities

Santa Claus waiving to the residents of Bickford Senior Living on Sunday, Dec. 20.

MUSCATINE, Iowa-On a bright and sunny Sunday afternoon, Santa Claus himself paid an early visit to Muscatine. He stopped off at several area long-term care facilities, bringing safe, socially distanced holiday cheer to the residents there with a little help from Muscatine County Emergency Management.

Since March, residents of long-term care facilities have experienced the ill effects of the COVID-19 pandemic the most. Because of their age and underlying health conditions, these residents have had little contact with the outside world for nine months. Though friends and families can visit by phone, video conference, or window visits, it does not fully make up for the in person interactions they miss.

Muscatine County Emergency Management Emergency Manager Brian Wright has observed these difficulties first hand. As he delivered personal protective equipment to long-term care facilities and participated in Elderly Consortium meetings with care providers and organizations serving seniors, he learned about the loneliness of residents and the concern of their families and friends who could not visit them. “When stopping at those locations, I’ve seen how hard it is for family members who are outside and worried about their loved ones inside,” he said. “With the upcoming Christmas holiday, many won’t be able to celebrate or continue an annual tradition.”

At the beginning of December, Wright devised a way to bring some holiday cheer to Muscatine residents who could use it the most. If the long-term care facility residents could not go to holiday events, then he could bring Santa Claus to visit them: “”The pandemic has been a very difficult period for everyone including those in care facilities. They haven’t been able to be in contact with family, friends, and loved ones. Social isolation since the beginning of this year has taken away a sense of normality. Spreading a little Christmas cheer can help.”

The afternoon of Dec. 20, Santa made stops at Sunnybook at Muscatine, Premier Estates of Muscatine, Bickford Senior Living, Pearl Valley Rehabilitation, and Lutheran Living Senior Campus. At each stop, the jolly old elf walked the perimeter of the facility, knocking on windows and waiving to those who came to see him. The residents delighted in his surprise stop and the chance to take part in this socially distanced holiday festivity.

At a time when many long-term care facility residents do not get as much interaction as they could use, Wright took pleasure in making sure they could still have a little holiday fun in spite of the pandemic. As he put it, bringing joy to these residents, “is simply a dedication that’s been instilled in me as an individual, retired career firefighter, and now in my role with Muscatine County Emergency Management.”