This qualitative UK study explored the lived experiences of volunteer befrienders to people with dementia, using interpretative phenomenological analysis. Individual semi-structured interviews were conducted with nine befrienders aged between 25 and 66 years. The relationship that developed between befriender and befriendee was at the heart of befrienders’ experiences. It comprised numerous paradoxical processes that generated issues of power, equality and boundaries, characterising befriending as a complex and unique phenomenon. Befriending was expressed as a deeply personal and human experience, often with emotional power and profound meaning. Befrienders’ personal learning included seeing past dementia stereotypes, challenging their own assumptions and boundaries, and reflecting on love, life and humanness. Dissemination of these findings could help to challenge the stigma around dementia, and enhance recruitment and support of dementia befrienders. Future research should consider befriendee experiences of the relationship, additional measures of befriending effectiveness, and exploration of befriender attrition and support.
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