Alzheimer’s association starts support group for caregivers

Finding out that a loved one has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s can elicit grief and uncertainty.

Finding out that a loved one has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s or other forms of dementia can elicit feelings of sadness, grief and uncertainty.

For some immediate family members, the diagnosis bears many questions, such as how to best take care of their loved one and what resources are out there, according to Kayla Darst.

Darst works as the sales director at the Alzheimer’s Association Washington State Chapter in Oak Harbor. The association provides support and information to people who are directly or indirectly dealing with dementia.

On April 11, the association hosted the first of a series of meetings where caregivers can speak about their emotions, get advice and learn about community resources.

According to Darst, many people have no idea of how to take care of their disabled parent or spouse. Learning about what resources are available, Darst said, can save a lot of stress and phone calls.

The Alzheimer’s/Dementia Caregivers Support Group will meet from 2 to 3 p.m. on the second Thursday of each month at the First Reformed Church in Oak Harbor. As the group grows, meetings might be extended to two hours.

Participants can choose to remain anonymous, and can simply show up whenever they are able to, Darst said. During each meeting, participants will take turns sharing their experiences, asking questions or giving advice.

Growing up, Darst saw her parents take care of her grandfather who had dementia. More recently, her friend was placed in memory care, which has taken an emotional toll on her.

Sharing her experience and hearing other people’s stories has given her the relief she was looking for. Feeling inspired to provide more help to others following a meeting she attended in Anacortes, she decided to bring a support group to Oak Harbor. In the future, she said, she would like to bring more to the rest of the island.

A dementia diagnosis can also have significant financial and emotional effects, causing many caregivers to develop what Darst called “caregiver’s guilt” for feeling frustrated and overwhelmed or for considering taking their parent to a care home.

At the support group, caregivers will be heard and acknowledged for the sacrifices they make.

“It’s okay to prioritize yourself too,” Darst said.

For more information, visit or reach out to Kayla Darst at 360-333-9004 or