A Few Words About Us

Douglas knew from early on in his relationship with Darla that they would someday be heavily involved with Seniors. After all, the only type of movies that Darla wanted to watch when dating were movies like "Driving Miss Daisy" and "On Golden Pond".

So it was inevitable that sooner or later they would start their own care center. Lakeside Gardens was opened in the summer of 1997 and they haven't looked back since. Read below...

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Darla Laughlin

Beginning with her college education, Darla has always wanted to learn more about better options for seniors. Although her major was Human Development and Family Studies, Darla's emphasis was on gerontology. During her course work at Oregon State University, she learned about care in community settings. That is where she first learned about Adult Family Homes and was intrigued by the concept of care with an emphasis on social, rather than just medical needs.

While completing her certification in Gerontology, Darla began an internship with Holiday Retirement Corporation. At the time, they were the leading retirement housing corporation in the world. At the local facility where Darla did her internship, her study was on how activities enhanced the lives of the seniors in these facilities. What she found was that there was no structure, training or goals for activities and this was an area that needed improvement.

After successfully developing an activity program in the Corvalis, Oregon facility, Darla found herself hired by Holiday Retirement to help write and implement an activity program that could be used throughout the nation. Even though she was only 22, she soon found herself flying around to Holiday Retirement's various facilities, training, marketing and creating meaningful activity plans for many of their retirement centers. She also developed sensitivity training for managers of those retirement communities so they could understand the needs and difficulties that seniors face to better serve them.

In 1990, Darla moved to Bellingham, WA to serve as the marketing director for Willows Retirement Community. During this time, she had a live talk radio program about issues on aging. Soon after, Darla's desire for creating a model of home community care inspired the start of Lakeside Gardens which she has managed for over 17 years.

During this time, Darla has served on numerous educational conference committees. In 2002, Darla coordinated the conference for the Washington State Residential Care Council. She has been a speaker at the Alzheimer Society conference and has worked on their conference committees over the years.

Darla served on the Board of Directors for Washington State Residential Care Council and has also served as both President and Vice President on the board of Elder Service Providers. Darla was a member of the board of directors of the Ombudsman Advisory Council. The Ombudsman is a watch group which seeks to improve the quality of life for residents of long-term care facilities (nursing homes, intermediate care facilities for the mentally retarded, personal care homes, and community living arrangements).



Douglas Laughlin

Douglas's passion has always been using natural medicine as a means to lift a person to a better life. His early career was dedicated to banking and investments and raising money for natural health projects. He was on the team that introduced the science behind essential fatty acids, such as fish oils, to the world. He helped fund and reintroduce the only approved natural cancer remedy in Canada.

But when Darla, his wife, wanted to start Lakeside Gardens, Douglas joined her, giving not only his time and support, but his nutrition knowledge and experience as well.

Upon seeing some miraculous reversals of both heart disease and diabetes from diet alone, Douglas went back to school and attended Boucher Institute of Naturopathic Medicine.   He uses his knowledge of health and physiology for the benefit of the clients' at Lakeside Gardens.

Douglas also has a degree in Chemistry from Walla Walla University and a degree in Piano Performance from the University of Toronto. His music brings much pleasure and joy to the residents.

He is past president of the Washington State Resident Care Council Chapter in Whatcom County, and also served on the state board.


It is our privilege to introduce you to Lakeside Gardens' lead caregiver, Amanda Burke.  Amanda is particularly gifted in the details of care and communication.  She has a BA in psychology from Western Washington University, and currently she is planning on going to nursing school part time starting the Fall of 2015.  Amanda has been our trusted employee for 3 years now who we depend upon for her responsible and dependable administration skills.  

We appreciate you Amanda!


Kelly Sweitzer

Our Activity Director, Kelly Sweitzer, is also a certified caregiver who has worked with Lakeside Gardens for 5 years and counting.  Talk about fun, and the name Kelly Sweitzer comes to mind.  Kelly brings over 25 years of experience to her work. She is especially gifted with making residents feel relaxed and at home, bringing joy and laughter to everyone she touches. Following the resident's pace and preferences are what she does best, with a eye for the details that matter most to each individual. Our home rings with laughter because Kelly is here!