Professional Affiliations


Elder Service Providers

  • member
  • served as President & Vice-President

Alzheimer's society of WA


  • member
  • served on education committees
  • taught course on music therapy for Conference

Washington State Residential Care Council

  • served for 3 years on the state board
  • served as President for the Local chapter

Committees and Advocacy groups

Ombudsman Advisory Council

Board Member

Goal of Council:   to advise ombudsman on best ways of protecting and working with residents of long-term care facilities.

Washington State Residential Care Council (2000-2004)


Delegate for 4th corner on state board

Goal of Council:  to protect and provide educational services for adult family home providers in order to meet the needs of the clients they serve throughout Washington State.


Director/Administrator of WSRCC Education Conference

Goal of Conference:  to provide education to adult family home providers, their staff, and the community on the needs of seniors

Alzheimer's Society of Washington (2002)



Advisory Council

Goal of Council:   to foster and sustain a continuum of appropriate care for demential patients in the State of Washington, stressing maximum utilization of all available resources including, but not limited to, family, community and government entities.

Work Group (2002)




"Dementia Care Standard in Boarding Homes"

Goal of Work Group:   to develop advisory recommendations to Washington State DSHS regarding what additional rules, if any, may be necessary to ensure the safe and adequate care of all individuals with dementia who live in boarding homes. Darla represented the Alzheimer's Association.



Business Pulse Magazine (July 2004)

"We try to help them maintain self-esteem and control over their own lives."


...The same could be said for the location of Lakeside Gardens on Wiser Lake. Owner Darla Laughlin came to Whatcom County from Salem, Oregon, 15 years ago. She served as marketing director for The Willows before opening her adult family home eight years ago. She holds a degree in family studies and focused on the social and psychological aspects of aging.

“I did my internship in a retirement community,” Laughlin said. “I looked around to see what they were doing to make life interesting for the residents and the answer was nothing. I helped the residents organize different events and was so successful that I was hired to train people in other facilities.”

There’s more to Lakeside Gardens than just a pastoral setting.

“I spent a year looking for just the right place,” Laughlin said. “I wanted a bright, open outdoor environment. Seeing the lake and the flowers is very restorative. It’s different than a nursing home or boarding facility. It’s assisted living with 24-hour supervision. We’re limited to six residents, the maximum for a residential care facility. I have special certifications in Alzheimer’s and mental health to help me care for our residents. We have a great reputation in the community and are always full.”

There are five caregivers at Lakeside Gardens.

“It’s challenging to find good people, especially those with experience,” Laughlin said. “Pay for caregivers is not high, so there have to be rewards other than money. They have to feel that they are contributing to a community. Our people hold each other accountable and help each other. It’s a family situation and they are part of the family. We identify their strengths and help develop those. We are tolerant of weaknesses as long as there’s a balance and we try to turn those weaknesses into strengths.”

There is no commercial kitchen and residents often help prepare meals.

“Residents are as active as they want to be,” Laughlin said. “We try to help them maintain self-esteem and control over their own lives. People need validation at that age.”

She has recently started Loving Options, a referral service for seniors.

“People were calling us constantly on referral and we hated to say no,” Laughlin said. “There are so many questions involved in selecting the right care facility and family members often don’t know where to turn. There is so much to learn and it’s not always a good idea to rely on marketing people. Social workers and nurses asked me to start a placement service to help people through the process.”

Laughlin noted that there are over 70 licensed elder care facilities in the area and just calling all of them to inquire about openings is a daunting task.

“I can help,” she said. “I can do an assessment with help from registered nurses, which is vital to determining needs and a successful placement. Families need to realize the importance of an assessment to separate perceived from actual needs. Then I research availability and set up appointments for tours as necessary.”

Loving Options has been operating for one year and employs one other person full time, along with RNs on contract for assessments and consulting.

“This is a real resource for the business community,” Laughlin said. “It’s hard to be an expert in some field that’s not your own. There has been a flood of response. People are referring to us constantly. We’re the only such service in Whatcom County and locals want to deal with locals.”
The best part is that the service is free. Upon placing of a client, Laughlin charges a small fee to the facility.

(note: to maintain the highest care at Lakeside Gardens, Darla Laughlin has discontinued Loving Options service)