Duke Elder Family/Caregiver Training (DEFT) Center


To develop, implement and evaluate an innovative and scalable model for teaching, training and supporting caregivers who assist and care for elders at home following a hospital or rehabilitation discharge.


To prepare and empower individuals in their role as caregivers of homebound older adults especially during challenging transitions.

Addressing the Need

Older adults comprise a small fraction of our population in the United States, yet they account for a large percentage of hospital stays. Almost half of hospitalized older adults will experience a loss of physical function related to their hospitalization, and many have complex medical regimens that complicate their home recovery. Without adequate support, older adults experience difficult home transitions that lead to dissatisfaction in care and potential readmissions. One in five older adults is readmitted to the hospital within 30 days of their discharge, and the readmission rate increases to about 31 percent for those who are medically vulnerable and frail. The caregiving role is frequently under-supported. Many caregivers express frustrations with the hospital discharge planning process, citing poor communication, lack of knowledge and education and especially training to reinforce skills that are necessary to take on their home caregiving role. Consequently, caregivers worry about their ability to provide the needed care at home. As we anticipate more home caregivers as a result of an aging society, a shift in the health care paradigm is needed that considers caregivers as active partners in health care. The DEFT Center aims at addressing these needs.


The Duke University School of Nursing (DUSON) will provide leadership in the development, implementation, management and evaluation of the Center. The DEFT Center will amalgamate resources within DUSON, the Duke University Health System (DUHS) and the community for synergistic assistance to caregivers during challenging care transitions.

Faculty & Staff
Core Team

Cristina C. Hendrix, DNS, GNP-BC, FAAN – Center Director

Dr. Hendrix completed her BSN at the University of Santo Tomás in Manila, Philippines. She earned an MSN-FNP at the University of Alabama and a DNS from Louisiana State University. She also completed a post-master's gerontological nurse practitioner (GNP) certificate at DUSON. She presently practices as a GNP. Dr. Hendrix's program of research focuses on developing interventions to support the family caregivers of chronically ill patients. She has conducted clinical trials on the effects of an individualized cancer caregiver training delivered before hospital discharge. Dr. Hendrix is also a nurse investigator at the Geriatrics Research, Education and Clinical Center at the Durham VA Medical Center, where she developed and led the Durham TransitionaL Care (TLC) program. The Durham TLC was one of the 10 recipients of the 2012 VA Office of Nursing Services Innovations Award, a national award mechanism that recognizes nursing leadership in quality improvement. Dr. Hendrix will provide overall leadership in the development and implementation of the DEFT Center.

Doreen M. Matters – Program Director 

Doreen joined the DEFT Center in August 2016. She comes to the Center after twelve years at the Duke Cancer Institute (DCI), where she served as the director of annual fund and board relations before accepting the position of administrator of external relations for the Duke Cancer Patient Support Program in 2011. While at DCI she had the privilege to work with interprofessional teams, program benefactors and most importantly, and most rewarding, patients and families. At the DEFT Center, Doreen will provide leadership in the strategic development, implementation, management and evaluation of all operational, communication and marketing processes. She will provide budgetary oversight and act as the DEFT Center’s advisory board liaison. Her commitment to the mission of the DEFT Center is due in part to her experience for nine years as a caregiver to her mother, who lost her battle with Alzheimer’s Disease in 2015. She is focused solely on promoting enhanced training and education of caregivers.

Tamara Griffin, MSW – Social Work Case Manager

Tamara Griffin earned her BA and MSW from Tulane University in New Orleans, LA. Her career has focused on Medical Social Work with special interests in Social Work Academia and Community Social Work. She has worked for hospitals, non-profit health care and community programs, and universities across the country as a Social Work Practitioner and Social Work Administrator. Tamara’s interests remain with advocating for patients and families as they navigate health care choices and changes, supporting elders and their desire to remain in their homes and communities, and promoting the field of Social Work by mentoring and instructing students. Tamara will serve as the DEFT Social Work Case Manager providing psychosocial support, education, resources and referral services directly focused on caregiver care.

Christine Maxmeister - Nurse Coordinator

Christine is a strong advocate for patient safety and caregiver education. Her 13 years of nursing expertise has focused on caring for critically ill patients, organ donation, and living kidney and liver transplantation. She enjoys teaching and collaborating with caregivers to ensure that the transition to home is successful. With her recently earned MSN, her current focus includes the utilization of data analytics and electronic healthcare record design and usage to improve patient safety and transition to home. She obtained her Bachelor of Arts in Human Studies and Intercultural Communication from Maryhurst University, her Associate Degree in Nursing from Wenatchee Valley College, and her Master of Nursing Science in Health Informatics from Duke University School of Nursing. She is a Geriatric Resource Nurse and certified Transplant Coordinator.

Leadership Team

Cristina Hendrix, DNS, GNP-BC, FAAN
Eleanor S. McConnell, PhD, MSN, RN, GCNS, BC
Loretta M. Matters, MSN, RN 
Patricia Kramer, Ed.S., CCM, CSW, NCC 

Testimonial: Meet Dr. Ruby Drew, Caregiver

Bringing Curriculum to Life: Part 1


Hendrix Receives $1.5 Million Grant to Create Elder Caregiving Training Center

The Duke Endowment

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