Beverly Enterprises, Inc. is the largest nursing home chain in the country but not the only chain expanding.

Other major chains and some of their transactions:

* Unicare Health Facilities Inc. of Milwaukee recently purchased American Medical Affiliates Inc. of Fort Washington, Pa. The acquisition increased Unicare's size from slightly under 6,000 to almost 10,000 beds.

* Beacon Hill America Inc., of Minneapolis, with 1,700 beds acquired Continental Care Centers Inc. of Omaha, with 5,000 beds.

* Hillhaven Corp. of Tacoma, with 14,500 beds has acquired the Guardian Corp., of Rocky Mount, N.C., with 1,700 beds, and National Health Enterprises Inc. of Santa Monica, with almost 10,000 beds.

* ARA Health Facilities Inc., a subsidiary of the food conglomerate ARA Services Inc., has considered selling its 31,000 nursing home beds. The New York investment firm of Goldman, Sachs was retained earlier this year to undertake what Alan Campbell, an ARA official, characterized as a "very exploratory" sounding out of the market. Campbell later said that ARA had decided not to sell its nursing home operation.

These acquisitions, final and potential, represent only one aspect of the consolidation within the nursing home industry. Simultaneously, the chains are acquiring individual homes and small, local groups with only two or three homes.