I update the download for the patch roughly once a month; right around the time that the monthly theme is released. If there are additional changes that are more urgent, then I may update the download at other times as well, but a lot of the time any updates are just to add new features or improve existing ones and aren't super important.
Installing the patch is actually fairly easy:
1. Download the Vertex Upgrade Patch
2. Back up your site (just in case).
3. Copy the vertex/footer.php from the theme folder to somewhere safe (you'll be putting it back after patching).
4. Delete the vertex folder from the theme (nothing else, that is the only
thing to delete).
5. Extract the zip file containing the patch, and upload it to the theme folder through FTP, choosing "overwrite" if/when prompted.
6. Copy the footer.php file (from step 3) back into the vertex folder of the theme.
So, to put it a different way:
1. Back up vertex/footer.php.
2. Delete the vertex folder, then upload the extracted patch to the theme folder.
3. Put the footer.php file back into the vertex folder of the theme.