Remembering Author and Speaker Tandy Elisala


Remembering Author and Speaker Tandy Elisala


In 2019, we lost our dear friend and colleague Tandy Elisala to cancer. Tandy inspired us with her passionate commitment to caregiver support, and she made many valuable contributions to our community, including her Empowered Family Caregiver Podcast. The Tandy Spirit Award was created in 2019 to recognize and celebrate individuals who share Tandy’s spirit and commitment to helping others. These individuals are recognized at our annual Caregiving Visionary Awards.

Over a year after her death, Tandy’s children Amanda, Sarah, and Steven Elisala share memories of their mom and what the Tandy Spirit Award means to them.

Tandy Elisala headshot

What was Tandy like as a mother, colleague, and friend?

Our mom was the embodiment of the life of the party - there wasn’t a stranger or dog that she didn’t embrace (#dogmom). As a single mother to three children, she always made time for each of us--her favorite goodbye to us was, “I love you.” Her faith was a guiding principle in her life that grew stronger in her caregiving experience, but expanded even more during her own five-time cancer journey.

Her colleagues knew her as not just a boss and peer but as someone who would lead by example and always listened without judgement. As a friend she was thoughtful and kind, giving what she could when she could without any expectation of receiving anything back.

Honestly she was selfless, funny, had a contagious laugh, and blue eyes that would twinkle at a good joke. Our mom was beloved, told the best stories, and gave the best mom hugs. Her capacity for unconditional love and her attitude of gratitude was a testament to the life she lived and the legacy she left behind.

What event or experience led your mother to focus on caregiver support?

Our mom became an unexpected caregiver to both of her parents and her sister in late 2009. She left her 20+ year corporate career in higher education to be a full-time caregiver to a dad with a traumatic brain injury and a mom who was wheelchair bound and diagnosed with breast cancer--all happening within a month of each other while raising three teenagers. Needless to say, there were growing pains and a sharp learning curve.

It was through this experience she was able to not just see first hand the challenges that faced carers, advocates, and their loved ones. She also saw the need for caregiver support, empowerment, and need for a community. This is how she found her life’s purpose. She made it her mission to empower caregivers and provide others with resources and support for their loved ones and for themselves.

What does the Tandy Spirit Award embody?

Caregiving often is a series of challenges that ordinary men and women, like our mom, are forced by circumstances to meet. The Tandy Spirit Award embodies a commitment to bettering others through caregiving, empowering their communities, and supporting other caregivers. This award is given in recognition to those who rise to meet the extraordinary challenges that come with caregiving and the indelible spirit of selflessness and service.

Is there a non-profit or charitable organization members of the community can donate to in Tandy’s honor?

Our mom worked with Hospice of the Valley in Phoenix, AZ. She was a volunteer there for years with the express purpose of giving respite to families who had their loved ones in hospice care and to provide comfort to those who were transitioning from this life into the next. It was a labor of love for her in that she not only demonstrated unlimited compassion for those in need but understanding for those who were left behind. As a Caregiving Empowerment Coach, working with Hospice of the Valley was both a privilege and an honor for her.

Is there anything else you would like to share about your mother with our community at this time?

She would want you all to know that the work you do--the time and effort you dedicate to caregiving- it’s important and worthwhile and very much seen. Caregiving is often thankless and lonely but know that you aren’t alone.

Above all, she would want to remind everyone to have hope and to take a moment today for yourself. You cannot pour from an empty cup to fill someone else's. When the darkness seems to outweigh the light, hold on to hope -- that when you show up everyday and do the best you can to do the right thing with what you’ve got, the dawn will always rise again. Each day is an opportunity to begin again.

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