JUDY WOODRUFF: Now to another in our Brief But Spectacular series, where we ask people to describe their passions.

Five-and-a-half million Americans are living with Alzheimer’s disease, and another 15 million serve as their unpaid caregivers.

Tonight, two individuals diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, Chris Hannafan and Pam Montana, share their experiences.

CHRIS HANNAFAN: I am 66. I was diagnosed when I was 65.

PAM MONTANA: I was diagnosed initially in November of 2015. And I think I’m getting the dates right. Part of my issue is my dates sometimes mush together.

CHRIS HANNAFAN: Yes, I know exactly what we’re doing. I know you’re Steve. I know you’re Zack. We’re here in Pine Street, finally.


PAM MONTANA: On July 20 of last year, I received the official diagnosis, with 17 research physicians and doctors in the room, myself, my husband and my two children, with the diagnosis of early-onset, early-stage Alzheimer’s.

QUESTION: You can take a minute or two.

PAM MONTANA: Every time I say it.

CHRIS HANNAFAN: The way I explain it to people is, I am in a new life. My former life no longer exists, and it’s up to me to create a new life.

PAM MONTANA: I knew something was wrong. It’s not normal to not be able to calculate a tip anymore. It’s not normal to not do math in your head and to be able to subtract or add numbers. It’s not normal to not remember conversations or to attend a training class and not remember what was taught.

CHRIS HANNAFAN: More and more words are going away. And there are a number of words that, no matter how I remember them, they are not there.

I could say, OK, now I have got it, and, two minutes later, I won’t have it.

PAM MONTANA: With Alzheimer’s, you don’t have an option. You just — it’s just not there. The information is just gone.

CHRIS HANNAFAN: It seems to be particularly difficult for those of us with Alzheimer’s early-onset to have — sorry — I got a little bit. OK, where was I?

PAM MONTANA: Frustrating is the word that comes to mind. I am frustrated with the fact that I don’t know what 32 minus seven is without a pen and paper.

It frustrates me that I have no idea what today is, but I do know it’s Friday.

CHRIS HANNAFAN: The first thing I lost was my car. So, I was no longer able to use my car for various reasons. I got a bicycle. And I have had two crashes with that. And I think part of that is spatial.

PAM MONTANA: Now I have a new job. And that job is to be loud and proud about my disease, to share my symptoms with everyone and anyone who will listen to me.

CHRIS HANNAFAN: I’m able to be useful. I’m able to have — to surround myself with a lot of people, which is absolutely the most important thing you can do with Alzheimer’s.

PAM MONTANA: Everyone always tells me I look good. Well, what does that have to do with anything?

I keep saying to people, I’m going to walk around in a bathrobe with a towel on my head, you know, no makeup, just an old hag, and then maybe then they will think I have Alzheimer’s.

But this is what Alzheimer’s looks like. It looks like me.

CHRIS HANNAFAN: My name is Chris Hannafan.

PAM MONTANA: My name is Pam Montana.

And this is my Brief But Spectacular take …

CHRIS HANNAFAN: Brief But Spectacular take.

PAM MONTANA: … on living with Alzheimer’s.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Thank you, Chris and Pam, for sharing with all of us what you’re going through. Wow.