BRUSSELS - In elderly care, sleeping pills, sedatives, antidepressants and antipsychotics are widely used. This is not a new phenomenon. Already in 2006, a study brought alarming figures to light. Since then, the pill shop in Flemish residential care centres has been running smoothly. Is the prescription of these psychopharmaceuticals to elderly people justified? Is it done for the right reasons, or just to keep them calm?

These drugs have side effects such as anxiety, confusion, hallucinations and memory problems, they increase the risk of falling and even death. In some other countries there are guidelines to completely avoid benzodiazepine-type sleeping aids and sedatives (or benzos for short) for elderly people, because the benefits do not outweigh the risks. But in some Flemish nursing homes, more than half of the residents chronically take a benzo. Still, things are moving, albeit very slowly. Ilse Prinsen talked to many players in the field. And it is clear: these dangerous drugs are by no means always necessary, and phasing them out often greatly enhances the quality of life of the elderly. 

Photo: © Ilse Prinsen

Team members

Ilse Prinsen

Ilse Prinsen is a Belgian freelance photographer and journalist.

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