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Mum s brave battle of the mind
Lorinda Klaric, pictured with her husband and their daughters, was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s three years before she died on January 13. Supplied picture

Weeks before her death, 36-year-old Lorinda Klaric appeared happy and healthy as she joined in Christmas festivities at an aged care home in Ellenbrook.

The mother of three young girls could have been there visiting a grandparent, but instead she had lived there for four months with residents more than twice her age.

No one knew how little she understood about what was happening around her as she wore the Santa cap, already robbed of most of her memory by a rare, genetic form of Alzheimer's disease.

She died on January 13, succumbing to the same dementia that claimed the life of her mother Maria at age 40, as well as an aunt and cousin.

The presenilin-1 form of Alzheimer's is caused by inherited gene mutations that bring on the mind-robbing disease by generating the build-up of the rogue protein beta amyloid.

It usually starts before age 60, sometimes as early as the 30s, and can be passed on to children.

It is more aggressive than regular forms of Alzheimer's associated with old age, making up less than one per cent of all cases. It turns fatal as the condition destroys the brain's ability to control the body's vital functions.

Lorinda was diagnosed three years ago, soon after she noticed she was starting to limp and mixing up her sentences.

Having watched her mother deteriorate, she phoned her father Stipan even before doctors had confirmed Alzheimer's and said simply "I think I'm sick".

Even then, her main concern was for her three daughters, then aged between eight years and 15 months - and the likelihood she would soon forget who they were.

After the devastating diagnosis, her close-knit family stepped in to help, with stepmother Helijana or "Baba" becoming her main carer until Lorinda deteriorated so much she had to go into the Pines Aged Care four months ago.

Helijana said Lorinda had been hopeful but became more resigned as she started to lose her battle.

"Lorinda accepted it but being young and with young children was difficult. Even at the end she thought her girls were still aged eight, six and one because time had stopped for her," Helijana said.

Lorinda also helped researchers understand more about early-onset Alzheimer's by agreeing to take part in an international study of families with genetic risk.

Run by Perth's McCusker Alzheimer Research Foundation, the trial is looking for brain changes that occur up to 10 years before Alzheimer's symptoms emerge.

A new stage of the study is looking at whether drugs can slow or prevent memory loss.

Researcher Ralph Martins said he was touched by Lorinda's help with research right to the end.

"This will hold the key not just for families at genetic risk but those of us who will get Alzheimer's later in life, so it's incredibly important," Professor Martins said.

·The Alzheimer's Foundation is hosting a fundraising cocktail evening with cook Maggie Beer at Perth Arena on February 14. For details, phone 9347 4200 or email admin@alzheimers.com.au .