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

Elderly woman with family

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.

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 

Learn more about DEFT services for family caregivers and healthcare providers here.

Meet Dr. Ruby Drew, who received assistance from DEFT in caring for her husband who was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer.

In this video, Duke University School of Nursing ABSN students participate in a variety of hands-on learning experiences for coordinated care of geriatric patients.

Dr. Cristina Hendrix explains the importance of caring for the caregiver and how DEFT can assist caregivers in providing care to their love ones.



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

The Duke Endowment

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