It's a lot of fun to contribute to other people's code (especially code you're using) and it's very fulfilling. Some people say it's a downer when your code isn't accepted, and I can understand that. However, the serious downer is when your code gets ignored.
When I go over a module, I go over the ticket list. When I see a ticket from over a year and it's still "new", it disappoints me and when I contribute to a project and it takes six months to get a reply, it disappoints me.
I know there are also different types of patches. Some of them complex and take time to test, check, correct and adapt. However, some patches are simple errors, common typos, data that should be added (like another entry for a hash of static data). These shouldn't be stuck so long back there. And, above all, don't ignore the contributor. Go over the tickets once a month and see if you can comment on anything. Even saying "I can't address this in the near future" means a lot to the contributor.
If you feel you don't have the time to work on a project, write about it, and suggest someone (most likely someone you already trust) be able to have co-maintainer status in order to apply some patches and release a new version.
Often times I see a project and think "well, I could fix this or that" or "seems like these only need applying and testing" but I don't want to take over the leadership of the module. I've contacted a lot of authors over the years. I've gotten only a few replies.
Sometimes I think releasing Your::Module::Patched will be the only way to get some of the patches I or other authors write included in. Obviously, that isn't a smart move. CPAN isn't Github. It doesn't look kindly on forks because it still has to maintain some authoritative version of a project for users to be able to download. Users want authoritative versions, not "his/her version".
Other than trying to contact an author, writing an email (or another one) and maintaining a personal collection of patches, I don't know what else can be done.
Please, give your RT some love, give your contributors some love.
I think I'll personally try to contact some authors for co-maintainer status just to patch things up.