When asked why she loves coming to the The Dementia Day Centre in Rushcutters Bay, resident Alannah Smith says it makes her day.

“Otherwise, I’d be home alone with my dog,” she says. “Coming here gives me a spring in my step.”

For John Smalley, visiting the centre gives him a social outlet when his daughter, who lives with him, is at work.

“When I come here I can read the papers and have a good old yarn and get out by the harbour,” he says.

“There are a lot of activities to choose from and it gets me out of the house and moving.”

A diagnosis of dementia can have a huge impact on a person and their family – but small actions, carried out thoughtfully, can make a big difference.

Indeed, ‘Small actions: Big difference’ is the theme of Dementia Awareness Month, which runs throughout September and seeks to raise awareness of the condition in Australia.

Under the umbrella of South Eastern Community Connect (SECC), The Dementia Day Centre, otherwise known as The Cottage, exists to assist those living with dementia, their families and carers.

Nestled in Rushcutters Bay, The Cottage provides a safe, secure and friendly environment where clients can find a sense of belonging and ownership.

Centre co-ordinator Amy Drewe says a dementia diagnosis should not be seen as an impediment to enjoying life and community participation, and The Cottage provides respite and support for loved ones and their carers.

“The Cottage offers a range of services to people with dementia and memory loss, from the active to the frail,” she says.

“The service is a mixture of centre-based day care and diversional therapy, and takes place from Monday to Friday, with clients taking part in a number of activities in a monthly program drawn up by the diversional therapist.”

The program is varied, and includes cottage-based activities such as ‘hidden memory’ and social discussions, games, quizzes, art therapy, crafts, light gardening, videos, gentle exercises, and afternoon drives.

“We pick up and drop off our clients and provide morning tea and a nutritional lunch to meet a wide variety of dietary needs,” Drewe says.

“We encourage local community groups to volunteer their time in singing, music or creative entertainment for the clients.”

Clients can attend with a GP diagnosis or by self-referral, or the referral of a social worker or case manager, health professional, aged care service, an aged care assessment team (ACAT), or a family member. The daily cost starts at $40.

The Cottage is open to people living in the Woollahra, Randwick, City of Sydney, Waverley and former Botany council catchment areas, and is a service of not-for-profit organisation South Eastern Community Connect (SECC).

To chat with South Eastern Community Connect (SECC) about its other programs and services for dementia sufferers and people in the community, call 02 8338 8506.

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