VANCOUVER -- COVID-19 protocols in care homes are supposed to protect seniors.

But some say the rules are also hurting them.

A video sent to CTV News by the family of 85-year-old Marina Deneef shows the Kamloops senior crying. Her daughter says this happens at the end of almost every visit since pandemic restrictions that severely limit families took effect.

Some families say the physical and emotional toll from lockdowns and restricted visits on their loved one is heartbreaking.

“When I went back in to see her, it was shocking actually,” says Barbara Owens, describing seeing her mom several months after pandemic shutdowns.

“Her eyes were vacant. No smile, she didn’t recognize me. She had lost 12 pounds in the previous month,” Owens explained.

Brenda Brophy also saw a big change in her mom.

“When I saw her in person, she kind of stared at me blankly. Usually my mom just sparkles when I walk in the door,” says Brophy.

“By the time I saw her, she was down over four pounds. On someone as tiny as her, that’s a lot of weight."

Families say they were not just visitors, but essential caregivers, until they were kept out care homes because of COVID-19.

“I made her food. Always in the evenings, I would go in and encourage her to eat her food,” explained Brophy. “I did her hair, made sure her nails were cut.”

Owens says family members are "their eyes, their ears, their voices. They can not advocate for themselves.”

In Ontario, MPP Lisa Gretzky has brought forward a private members bill that would guarantee those in care receive continuous and safe access to essential caregivers. It’s called the “More than a Visitor Act,” and has passed second reading.

Families in B.C. want the same kind of law.

“We all want to considered an essential caregiver and be able to go in. whether it’s helping them feed ... helping them brush their teeth ... just spending time with them,” says Jeanette Harper, who is now caring for her mom at home.

B.C. Premier John Horgan says his government’s commitment to hiring thousands more long term care aides will improve care and access for families.

“This will also enable more visitors during the COVID period because we’ll be able to process those visitors without taking away from...hours of care for the patients in our long term care facilities,” Horgan told CTV News.

But some families believe it’s too little, too late, and that they need help right away.